As the Museum kicks off its massive project to reimagine Air and Space, many of the objects in our collection will be moved from their current location on the National Mall. The first objects on that list were also some of the most iconic in our collection: Buzz Aldrin’s Apollo 11 and Gene Cernan’s Apollo 17 spacesuits.
It’s become one of the most well-known appendages in pop culture history—Spock’s pointed ears, signaling him as half-Vulcan, and now synonymous with the beloved sci-fi series. The Museum’s conservation team recently treated a replica ear in our collection.
The Clouds in a Bag exhibit at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia, displays many early renditions of ballooning, including a 18th-19th century dance box. Take a look at the conservation process behind this charming object.
Conservator Amanda Malkin has spent the last year examining, documenting, and conservering the Museum's 20 nineteenth century Chinese kites. Malkin shares how the traditional kites were constructed from the multiple thicknesses of split bamboo to the plant fibers that make up the Chinese paper. She also documents her conservation process for one of the treated kites, including the delicate process of removing brown craft paper tape.
This week the Apollo 11 Command Module, Columbia, which carried Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins on their historic trip to the Moon, moved to the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia. To many of us at the Museum, the move seemed to have miraculously happened overnight. In truth, the move took a team of experts and months of meticulous planning to pull off.
“This is something that’s unlike anything, at least for me, that I’ve ever moved,” said Anthony Wallace, a museum specialist in the Museum’s collections processing unit. Wallace explained that the spacecraft was not as complicated to move as some of the Museum’s aircraft, but the historical significance of the object heightened everyone’s awareness.
The Museum periodically performs a thorough, physical check of all our objects. We open panels and cases and closely inspect each object for any sign of deterioration due to light, humidity, vibration, or just the march of time. We always hope there are no surprises. But when conservator Robin O’Hern, gallery inventory coordinator Erin Ober, and their colleagues opened a large chamber in the Apollo to the Moon gallery, they got a shock; an acrid chemical smell.
The last time Neil Armstrong's gloves and helmet were displayed, in 2012, visitors asked us about “grey spots” on the right glove. We're conducting research and examining historical documentation to find out why.
One of our goals for this conservation project is to create a concrete timeline of the spacesuit’s condition and to document any historical repairs. To do that, we need your help. We’re looking for photos of the spacesuit from its national tour beginning in 1970, the gloves and helmet on later tours, and the spacesuit on display at the Smithsonian between 1971 and 1976.