Since its opening, and until recent years, our Zeiss Model VIa optical planetarium projector has brought the wonder of the night sky to countless visitors. The Zeiss Company no longer services the over 40 year-old model, and though its stars are as sharp as ever, and its skies deep in their dramatic blackness, its celestial motors have become weary, so it has been retired in favor of an ever-improving digital projection system that offers many advantages to meet modern programming needs. The Albert Einstein Planetarium theater itself is also closing as our multi-year renovation progresses through the Museum, but it will eventually reopen as a fully digital experience. Now that we are saying good-bye to its original projector, the Zeiss Model VIa, the question is, of course, how did it get here
For more than a decade it has been my privilege, among my other duties, to serve as curator of the National Air and Space Museum art collection. It comes as a surprise to many folks to realize that the Museum has an art collection. In fact, it includes over 4,700 works by artists with names like Daumier, Goya, Rauschenberg, Rockwell and Wyeth.
While hunting for images of navigators in World War II, a series appeared which, although completely distant from my topic, still grabbed my attention. They were pictures of a military funeral. These pictures were unique, however, because they were not showing the solemn burial of a soldier, airmen, or sailor; they were showing the burial of a unit mascot.
Cecil “Teddy” Kenyon (1905-1985), on the left, and her husband Theodore "Ted" Whitman Kenyon (1899-1978) were a flying family – when they weren’t trick-or-treating, as this 1940s photograph from their collection in the Museum’s Archives Division shows.
As mentioned in Dom Pisano’s recent post “From Collecting to Curating,” six interns, including myself, and two volunteers (with our supervisor, enough for a baseball team!) photographed, scanned and catalogued much of the museum’s collection of over 1,300 posters at the Paul E. Garber Facility's collections processing unit this summer. It sounds like a lot of posters, but you may not have seen any of them, unless you have a great memory of advertisements you glimpsed in airports over the years while running to catch your plane.
The Museum-going public doesn’t often get the opportunity to observe the work that goes on behind the scenes in a museum. The National Air and Space Museum’s poster collection is a case in point. The items in this collection, which range from notices for early aviation exhibitions to commercial airline advertising, were collected over many years. It is only recently, however, that the posters have been curated; i.e., cared for as a collection.
Recently I was involved in a “first” in my career here at the National Air and Space Museum – a sleepover! About six winners (and their families) in the Post Cereal Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian contest spent the night in the National Mall building on Friday, August 7. The lucky slumber-partygoers had competed in an online sweepstakes that was promoted on Post cereal boxes.