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).
How did three staff members at the National Air and Space Museum get to collaborate on the Museum’s first children’s book, Pluto’s Secret: An Icy World’s Tale of Discovery? The short answer is that this is an extraordinary place to work. And when people are as generous with their time and talents as my collaborators have been, neat stuff happens.
My coworkers and I are fortunate: every day, we get to touch pieces of history that few others ever lay hands on and seldom see. Why are we so privileged? We are helping to move some of the National Air and Space Museum’s collections from their previous storage site to new facilities at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia.
On January 10, 2012, the National Air and Space Museum Archives Department officially opened its new reading room at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center to public researchers. We welcomed six researchers that day, including two who had scheduled a trip from Germany to coincide with our grand opening.
The central theme of the Time and Navigation exhibition is the connection between timekeeping and determining position. During the development of the exhibition, we realized it was not enough to show devices for accurately measuring time and position. We wanted visitors to grasp why it's true that "If you want to know where you are, you need an accurate clock."
On October 24, Stanley, winner of a historic robot race, left its home at the National Museum of American History aboard a flatbed truck and arrived safely at its destination, just seven blocks away. For the foreseeable future, Stanley will be here at the National Air and Space Museum, a centerpiece in the exhibition Time and Navigation: The Untold Story of Getting From Here to There. The irony of the situation escaped no one. Stanley, a driverless vehicle that had navigated 132 miles on its own to win the 2005 Defense Advanced Research Projects Grand Challenge, needed the help of scores of people AND a truck ride to get from there to here.
Washington, DC is filled with museums of all shapes and sizes that feature educational exhibits and activities for kids. Developing learning opportunities for different ages at a museum requires a lot of planning. Staff must identify an audience for each program, know how to best engage that audience (combining the latest scholarship about informal learning with an understanding of various learning theories and recognition that people learn in many different ways), define a learning objective (what do we want the audience to learn?) and figure out how to make it fun.
In the past, fellows have written about everything from spaceflight in the Soviet Union to the "Nisei" stewardesses on Pan American Airways. If you were to apply for a fellowship at the National Air and Space Museum, what would you research?