This summer, visitors had a unique opportunity to see the transformation of American commercial aviation on the floor of the Mary Engen Restoration Hangar: the Ford 5-AT Tri-Motor, the Boeing 247-D, and the Douglas DC-3
With the depredations of Nazi Germany dominating the international memory of the middle decades of the twentieth century, many German social, cultural, and technical contributions not associated with the tainted influence of the Third Reich have been forgotten or overlooked. One of the individuals who contributed significantly to the prospects of regular transatlantic air service before open warfare ended such endeavors was Wolfgang von Gronau.
When the floods in Thailand appeared in the news recently, my friends and colleagues recommended that I stay away. But how could I? It was only a 4.5 hour flight from China (where I would be attending the Lishui International Photography Festival November 5 - 9) and photographing the Bangkok (BKK) air traffic control tower at the Suvarnabhumi International Airport was a high priority on my “to do” list. Actually, the highest. It is the tallest freestanding air traffic control tower in the world at 132.2 meters (434 feet) and a major tower to include in my upcoming book and Smithsonian exhibition The Art of the Airport Tower.
A Smithsonian Institution curator whom I greatly admire once said that collecting objects for a museum is a bit like standing next to a river with a bucket. The curator’s task is to gather examples that explain what is important about something (in this analogy, a river), but the curator can only take what fits in the bucket. How do you capture the essence of something large and complex with a sample that is small enough to be preserved and displayed?