Topic

Behind the Scenes

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Thu, November 28 2013

A Few Words of Thanks from Our Curators

I’ve worked as a curator at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum for more than three decades. It has been an amazing ride. I’ve done things and met people I could never have in any other job. In that time I have had many reasons to be thankful. Thankful to have closely studied artifacts that have changed the world, like the Wright Flyer. Thankful to have met larger-than-life figures whose accomplishments are in the historical firmament for all time, such Neil Armstrong and John Glenn. Thankful to have worked with many world-class scholars and museum professionals.

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Wed, November 20 2013

Breathing New Life into an Old Fabric

As previously discussed in Spiral Threads of Corrosion Overtake an Antenna Drive, a one-year conservation triage project is underway to deal with artifacts that are actively deteriorating and require stabilizing treatments prior to being permanently relocated to the new storage facility at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia. These artifacts include a wide range of issues to be dealt with by a team of three contract conservators, including active corrosion, mold contamination, pest management, hazardous materials, and physical insecurities.

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Thu, October 24 2013

Finding History on eBay

One question I’m often asked as a curator is, “do you ever find anything interesting for the museum on eBay?” The answer is yes. This is the story of a particularly interesting find.

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Tue, August 6 2013

A Trip to the International Latex Corporation: How Spacesuit Gloves Are Made

This past month National Air and Space Museum and Museum Conservation Institute (MCI) interns were able to travel to Frederica, Delaware to visit the International Latex Corporation Dover (ILC). It is one of several companies that produces the "soft materials" or non-metal components of spacesuits for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). ILC was started in 1932 by Abram Spanel, and eventually made latex products to support the Allied troops in World War II. While today the company creates a range of products from personal protection equipment (PPE) to materials for the pharmaceutical industry, it is probably best known for producing spacesuits for the Apollo program. That means that ILC was responsible for designing and making the spacesuit that Neil Armstrong wore when he first stepped on the Moon in 1969.  

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Wed, July 24 2013

Spiral Threads of Corrosion Overtake an Antenna Drive

One of the primary objectives in the Museum’s previous collection surveys has been to identify artifacts which are actively deteriorating and require stabilizing treatments prior to being relocated to the new storage facility at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia. These artifacts with active corrosion, mold contamination, hazardous materials, and physical insecurities were set aside for a team of three contract conservators to perform specialized treatments.

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Fri, May 10 2013

On Assignment for Time and Navigation

What’s missing when you sit in front of a computer all day? Adventure! Luckily, three Time and Navigation photography missions took me across the country last year, giving me the chance to escape the office.

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Fri, April 26 2013

An Out-of-This-World Program

How do you bring together two orbiting astronauts and more than 12,000 students scattered around the U.S. and Canada?  It’s not rocket science, but it's close.  First you have to find some very dedicated partners with a common purpose, like the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the U.S. Department of Education, and the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education.  Second you have to ensure an audience; which isn’t very difficult because who wouldn’t jump at the chance to talk to astronauts while in space?  Third, and most challenging, you have to put together the technology capable of linking 24 sites scattered around North America and Hawaii with something moving at 28,163 kph (17,500 mph) 354 km (220 miles) above the Earth’s surface.

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Tue, April 23 2013

The Abbreviated History of a Scientist (Namely, Myself)

My first word was JET, since we lived near an Air Force base and experienced sonic booms on a regular basis. My fascination with the heavens took off from there. Growing up, my family went camping and backpacking a lot, and one of my clearest memories of that time is looking up at a dark, dark sky and pointing out satellites to each other, those little moving points of light that are sometimes so faint I could only see them in my peripheral vision.

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Sun, March 31 2013

Easter Peeps Welcome Discovery!

Check out this fun Peeps diorama depicting the celebration of Space Shuttle Discovery's arrival at our Udvar-Hazy Center on April 19, 2012.

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Wed, March 20 2013

Removing Items from the Collection at the National Air and Space Museum

Visitors to the National Air and Space Museum don’t often get to see the work that goes on behind the scenes. This is especially true in terms of the labor that goes into collecting and caring for our artifacts. Many may wonder where all the air and space stuff (we call them artifacts) comes from. The answer is from a variety of places, including the United States Air Force, NASA, and the general public. These artifacts vary; some are large (aircraft and spacecraft) but many are relatively small (aircraft equipment or military or commercial airline uniforms and insignia, for example, or items of popular culture—air and space toys and games).

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