The Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum is one of the galaxy’s most popular tourist destinations, and celebrates infinite diversity in infinite combinations among its visitors. Although we are fairly certain there are no longer undercover Klingon agents on staff, we welcome citizens of the planet Kronos to explore the history of flight on Earth alongside our terrestrial visitors.
To help increase Klingon visitorship, we turned to Earth’s premier extraterrestrial linguist and former Smithsonian post-doctoral fellow, Marc Okrand. Okrand developed the Klingon and Vulcan languages for the Star Trek franchise, and was kind enough to translate and record a highlights tour in the Museum’s new app GO FLIGHT.
Almost a year ago, the Museum announced that it had acquired papers and artifacts of Arthur C. Clarke (1917-2008), renowned science fiction author and futurist. Now we can share that the Archives has completed processing the collection and it is open for research. As we discussed in blogs last year, Clarke was a seminal figure of the 20th century, with his influence still evident in today’s science fiction literature; in the continuing, lively cultural interest in futurism; and, of course, in movies. His collection does what we hope for from any collection of a well-known, highly accomplished individual: to see into his or her processes of creativity and the network of family, friends, and peers that shaped their world.
It’s a tall order to sum up the past year at the National Air and Space Museum in a simple list. We’ve hosted astronauts and record breakers, we’ve moved and conserved dozens of artifacts as we transformed the Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall (and discovered some incredible things in the process), and held programs that illuminated the impact of aviation and spaceflight on our everyday lives. Where would I even start? I propose a compromise: I’ll summarize ten of my favorite events of this past year, then I’m relying on you to suggest yours. Did you have an experience at the Museum this past year that should be on our list? We’re asking you to share your favorite Air and Space moments in the comments.
You can help. Conservators at the Emil Buehler Conservation Laboratory are working to restore the original, 11-foot studio model of the USS Enterprise, used in all 79 episodes of the television series Star Trek, to its appearance from August of 1967. We are looking for first-hand, primary source photos or film of the ship’s early years. Images of the model during production or on public display anytime between 1964 and 1976 will help conservators determine the model’s exact configuration at different stages of its journey.
"Buck...Rogers...in the twenty-fifth CEN-TURYYY!" This enthusiastic refrain from a deep-voiced announcer is how the popular 1930s radio show featuring space hero Buck Rogers began. It was followed by the roar of a spaceship blasting off, simulated by the sound of an air conditioning vent. Many of you have probably never heard of Buck Rogers, but he was a household name in the 1930s and ‘40s. Rogers was the very first science fiction comic strip hero. The character, at first named Anthony Rogers, was introduced in the first science fiction magazine, Amazing Stories, in August 1928. In a story titled, Armageddon 2419 A.D., written by Philip Nowlan, Rogers was a 29-year-old World War I veteran who took a job inspecting mines for radioactive gases.
When the Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall opens in the summer of 2016, one of its central artifacts will be the Star Trek starship Enterprise studio model, used to film the original television series. As a member of the curatorial team that has been working on this exciting revision of the Milestones Hall, I have been immersed in the culture and lore of that artifact, as I have sought to place it in the context of the Lunar Module, Spirit of St Louis, Bell X-1, and other iconic artifacts that will populate the space. What follows are some observations.
Earlier this month, I wrote about some of the behind-the-scenes work it took to survey and pack the Arthur C. Clarke Collection for transfer to the National Air and Space Museum. In this post, I wanted to highlight the types of material that make up this wonderful collection. These were all found during my cursory survey of the material; who knows what wonderful items we will uncover as we start the in-depth processing!
The National Air and Space Museum Archives recently had the honor of receiving the Arthur C. Clarke Collection. My colleague, space history curator Martin Collins, recently wrote a post about the importance of these materials. As an acquisition archivist for the Museum, I accompanied Martin to Sri Lanka to pack up this historic collection and ensure its safe transfer to our care.
For the last several years, we worked with the Arthur C. Clarke Trust to have the author’s papers donated to the Museum. One challenging factor was that the Trust and his papers sat in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Clarke’s home for most of his adult life. Legal and logistical issues abounded. But in Summer 2014, we reached a legal agreement. At the same time, we were fortunate to gain the support of FedEx to help us get Clarke’s collection safely from Sri Lanka to the U.S. In December, my colleague Patti Williams and I traveled to Colombo, welcomed by longtime Clarke associates Rohan de Silva and Hector Ekanayake. We assessed and boxed the collection, and with much help from FedEx’s world-wide team and transportation network, transferred Clarke’s life’s work to its new home in the Museum archives. It is now being conserved and processed, perhaps ready for use by researchers later this fall.