Soar Together @ Air and Space Virtual Family Day: Objects Tell Stories
How can objects and collections help us understand the past and present? What kind of stories do they tell?
This month, we will explore this question, and show you how to discover more about your family story through objects and photos.
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The Smithsonian Institution has been around for 175 years and has grown into the world's largest museum complex. The National Air and Space Museum, whose building opened in 1976, is just one of the Smithsonian's 21 museums.
We have the world's largest collection of objects related to aviation and space. The Museum's collection encompasses some 60,000 objects ranging in size from Saturn V rockets taller than 30-story buildings and jetliners that can fit hundreds of people to space helmets to microelectronics. One-third of the Museum's aircraft and spacecraft are one-of-a-kind or associated with a major milestone!
Our museum's mission is to "Commemorate, Educate, and Inspire" and our collections help us do that!
Activity: Images and Photos Tell Stories
Just like reading a book, images can tell us a lot about what is happening at a certain point in time. Learn how to study an image and then give it a try yourself!
Step 1: Watch
Get an introduction to reading images from space history curator, Jennifer Levasseur.
Watch how one of our curators emeritus, Tom Crouch, "reads" a famous historical photo - the Wright Brother's First Flight.
Think about it!
- What kind of information did Curator Crouch point out in the photo?
- Did you notice that he used a combination of things he knew already and things he observe in the image?
Step 2: Learn
Follow these tips on how to "read" a photo:
- Use stick notes or make notes on a copy of the photo you want to study, so you don't ruin the original image.
- Read the image like you would read a page in a book. Start at the upper left corner and move across the image.
- Label things that stand out to you or that you think are important.
- If you don't know what something is, circle it and add a question mark so you can ask someone about it later.
Step 3: Practice on a famous photo
This image from the first moon mission, Apollo 11, is one of the most popular historical images. The astronaut in the image is Buzz Aldrin and he's standing on the moon!
Try to note and observe 5 things on the photo.
Step 4: Compare
Watch this video and compare your reading to one of our curators, space history curator, Jennifer Levasseur.
Step 5: Read a family image
Now practice "reading" one of your family photos!
Think about it!
- What can you find out about your family from looking at photos looking more closely and paying attention to details?
- If you have questions, ask your family members. It's a nice way of remembering moments in your family timeline.
Activity: Objects Tell Stories
Museums collect objects that tell stories about people in history, or to remember moments in time so we can learn and prepare for the future. The National Air and Space Museum has some unexpected objects in our collections because they tell stories about air and space history. Scroll through the carousel to learn more!
Try it Yourself!
Step 1: Choose one of these options to get started:
Option 1: Find an object in your home or a family member's home that you are curious about.
Option 2: Ask a family member to choose an object that is special to them.
Step 2: Interview your family member about it. Here are some sample questions to ask:
- Where did you get the object from?
- Why is it special to you?
Explore Smithsonian Open Access
At Smithsonian Open Access, you can search nearly 3 million 2D and 3D images and use them however you want to use them, without permission from the Smithsonian! Watch this video to learn more and then start exploring at https://www.si.edu/openaccess
Soar Together @ Air and Space is made possible by the generous support of Northrop Grumman.