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.
In 1887, Samuel Pierpont Langley became the third Secretary of the Smithsonian. Included among his many accomplishments is his founding of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in 1890. His research in the fields of astronomy, physics, and aviation remain a testament to his diverse...
This post is a follow up to Preserving and Displaying the “Bat-Wing Ship” published on September 9, 2011.This post is a follow up to Preserving and Displaying the “Bat-Wing Ship” published on September 9, 2011.
Early in June, staff of the Paul E. Garber Preservation, Restoration and Storage Facility slowly and carefully moved the center section of the Horten H IX V3 all-wing jet fighter from storage into the restoration and preservation shop.
Things such as the Hope Diamond, the Star Spangled Banner, the Lansdowne portrait of George Washington, and Charles Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis airplane are good examples—one-of-a-kind items, familiar to all, and widely known to reside at the Smithsonian. Also in this subset of signature objects is one of the most significant in the entire Smithsonian collection—the Wright Flyer, the world’s first airplane.
As we begin to take occupancy of our new home in the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center’s new wing, and begin the process of outfitting the Mary Baker Engen Restoration Hangar, we are faced with the daunting task of moving all of our equipment into the new spaces and setting up an environment which will be favorable to the preservation and restoration of our priceless artifacts for decades to come. This is likely to be a lengthy process but we have begun to deliver selected artifacts so that when the viewing area becomes accessible, visitors will be able to see examples of our gems in the rough. Each of these aircraft has been in storage at the Paul E. Garber Facility in Suitland, Maryland for years, where the Museum's restoration work had taken place for decades. These aircraft are seldom seen by the public, and are all in need of preservation or restoration treatments.
Sixty-two suits. Toni Thomas and I came up with that number after several days counting spacesuits and flight suits on stepladders in the Environmental Storage Room, Building 24 (ESRB24) at the Paul E. Garber Facility. These were the pressure suits in the National Air and Space Museum spacesuit collection that still needed soft, conservation-correct storage mannequins. That was June 2009. Amanda Young had just retired after the successful publication of her and Mark Avino’s book Spacesuits: The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum Collection. The book culminated fifteen years of hard labor on her part to document, reorganize and standardize the preservation, storage and exhibit conditions for the Museum's spacesuit collection.
Next year, the National Air and Space Museum will begin restoring and preserving aircraft in the brand-new Mary Baker Engen Restoration Hangar, part of the Phase Two complex now under construction at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center. To treat the aircraft, the Museum applies a philosophy and range of techniques that have steadily evolved through the years.
The Archives Division at the National Air and Space Museum has lots of really neat items. Most things come to us in good condition and need very little preservation before being made available to the public.