National Air and Space Museum

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The Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum (NASM) maintains the largest collection of historic air and spacecraft in the world. It is also a vital center for research into the history, science, and technology of aviation and space flight. The museum has hundreds of artifacts on display including the original Wright 1903 Flyer, the "Spirit of St. Louis," Apollo 11 command module, and a Lunar rock sample that visitors can touch. The museum continues to develop new exhibits to examine the impact of air and space technology on science and society.

The National Air Museum (NAM) was created as a separate bureau of the Smithsonian Institution by an Act of Congress in 1946. Twenty years later, its name was changed to the National Air and Space Museum as part of a congressional act authorizing a separate building to house its collections.

Before 1946, the aeronautical collections had been assigned to the custodial care of the United States National Museum's Department of Anthropology, Division of Mechanical Technology, 1887-1919; the Department of Arts and Industries, Division of Mechanical Technology, 1919-1931; and the Division of Engineering, 1931-1946. In 1946 Carl W. Mitman was appointed Assistant to the Secretary for NAM. Upon Mitman's retirement in 1952, Curator Paul E. Garber was named Head Curator.

The NASM collection dates to the closing of the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia when the Smithsonian received a group of kites from the Chinese Imperial Commission. In 1889, the Stringfellow engine became the first object accessioned into the collection. The twentieth century brought an explosion in flight technology and the emergence of air power as a deciding factor in World War II. The collections of the NAM were housed in the Arts and Industries Building, in a shed in the south yard known as the "Air and Space Building," and outdoors in "Rocket Row." The beginning of the conquest of space in the 1950s and 1960s helped to drive the renaming of the Air Museum and finally congressional passage in 1971 of appropriations for the construction of the new Museum.

After the groundbreaking ceremony held in November 1972, work on the new building proceeded on two fronts-the actual construction of the edifice and work by the staff on two dozen exhibition halls. The staff moved into the Museum in 1975 and completed preparations for the July 1, 1976, opening, part of the Smithsonian's contribution to the Bicentennial celebration. During the 1980s, the Museum began to focus more directly on its research component. Fellowships were established in the curatorial departments, outreach in the form of lectures and other public programs increased, and the NASM Archives was created.

In addition to the artifacts on display in the Museum in Washington, D.C., hundreds more artifacts are currently housed at the Museum's Paul E. Garber Preservation, Restoration, and Storage Facility in Suitland, MD.

The Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center near Washington Dulles International Airport is the companion facility to the Museum on the National Mall. The building opened in December, 2003, and provides enough space for the Smithsonian to display the thousands of aviation and space artifacts that cannot be exhibited on the National Mall. The two sites together showcase the largest collection of aviation and space artifacts in the world.

Museum directors have included Philip S. Hopkins, serving from 1958 to 1964. He was succeeded by S. Paul Johnston, who held the position from 1964 to 1969. Frank A. Taylor was appointed Acting Director and held that position until Michael Collins was appointed Director in 1971. Collins guided the Museum through the construction and opening of the new facility. He resigned in 1978 and was succeeded by Melvin B. Zisfein, Acting Director, 1978-1979; Noel W. Hinners, Director, 1979-1982; Walter Boyne, Acting Director, 1982, Director, 1983-1986; Donald S. Lopez, Acting Director, 1986, 1995, and 1999; James C. Tyler, Acting Director, 1986-1987; Martin Harwit, Director, 1987-1995; Donald Davenport Engen, 1996-1999; and John R. Dailey, Director, 2000- .

Smithsonian Institution Archives, Agency History. Record 218080

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Shelflist Cards for Color Negatives, Slides, and Transparencies of U.S. Air Force Activities, Facilities, and Personnel, 1942 - 1980 United States. National Archives and Records Administration
referencedIn Ribbon Cutting Ceremony at the Dedication of the National Air and Space Museum of the Smithsonian Gerald R. Ford Library
referencedIn Public Buildings Administration Photograph File, 1943 - 1950 United States. National Archives and Records Administration
referencedIn The U.S. Air Force Presidential Honor Guard Drill Team poses near a depiction of astronaut Neil Armstrong's first moments on the moon. The depiction is inside the National Air and Space Museum of the Smithsonian Institute United States. National Archives and Records Administration
referencedIn 6/14/77 [2]
referencedIn Safety Belts Work
referencedIn "National Air and Space Museum Archival Videodiscs": U.S. Air Force Pre-1954 Still Photograph Collection, 1985 - 1995 United States. National Archives and Records Administration
referencedIn Subject Files on Federal Government Organizations, 1/20/1989 - 1/20/1993 George Bush Presidential Library and Museum
referencedIn 2007 United States. National Archives and Records Administration
referencedIn POLARIS MISSILE PRESENTED TO SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTE
referencedIn Ben Nicks Papers. 1993 - 1996. Enola Gay Files
referencedIn Lithographs of Works of Art in the NASA Art Collection, 1983 - 1994 United States. National Archives and Records Administration
creatorOf Accession 11-072 National Air and Space Museum, Exhibits Design Division Exhibition Records, 1991-1999 National Air and Space Museum
referencedIn Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum, Washington, DC United States. National Archives and Records Administration
referencedIn 2009 United States. National Archives and Records Administration
referencedIn Photographs of Tuskegee Airmen and Other African Americans, and Women in the U.S. Air Force, 1941 - 1981 United States. National Archives and Records Administration
referencedIn Minuteman III exhibit, Washington, DC United States. National Archives and Records Administration
referencedIn A view of a space capsule at the National Air and Space Museum of the Smithsonian Institute United States. National Archives and Records Administration
creatorOf Smithsonian Institution. Assistant Secretary for Science. Assistant Secretary for Science, 1963-1973 Records. Smithsonian Institution Archives
referencedIn The U.S. Air Force Presidential Honor Guard Drill Team in formation near a depiction of astronaut Neil Armstrong's first moments on the moon. The depiction is inside the National Air and Space Museum of the Smithsonian Institute United States. National Archives and Records Administration
referencedIn Administrative Histories (Johnson Administration). 5/1968 - 1/1969. Administrative History Files
editorOf Smithsonian - Smithsonian con Roger Wilkison United States. National Archives and Records Administration
referencedIn Fourth of July (1976) - Schedules and Lists of Events (2) Gerald R. Ford Library
referencedIn Museum Director Michael Collins Giving President Gerald R. Ford and Vice President Nelson A. Rockefeller a Tour of the National Air and Space Museum Gerald R. Ford Library
referencedIn Museum Director Michael Collins, President Gerald R. Ford, Vice President Nelson A. Rockefeller, and Others Looking at The Spirit of St. Louis During a Tour of the National Air and Space Museum Gerald R. Ford Library
creatorOf Smithsonian Institution. Assistant Secretary for Science. Assistant Secretary for Science, 1963-1978 Records. Smithsonian Institution Archives
referencedIn A view of historic aircraft suspended from the ceiling of the Smithsonian Institution's Air and Space Museum United States. National Archives and Records Administration
Subject Files on Federal Government Organizations, 1993 - 2001 William J. Clinton Presidential Library & Museum
referencedIn A view of a lunar module in the National Air and Space Museum of the Smithsonian Institution United States. National Archives and Records Administration
referencedIn 7/1/76 - Remarks at the Dedication Ceremony for the National Air and Space Museum at the Smithsonian Institute Gerald R. Ford Library
referencedIn Fourth of July (1976) - National Air and Space Museum, 7/1/76 Gerald R. Ford Library
referencedIn John Coster-Mullen Papers. 1945 - 1996. Subject Files
referencedIn 7/1/76 - Dedication of the National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution (1)-(3) Gerald R. Ford Library
referencedIn Committee Papers of the Committee on Public Works from the 81st Congress United States. National Archives and Records Administration
referencedIn 7660803 - Secretary, Smithsonian Institution/Director, National Air and Space Museum, [REVIEW ON REQUEST] Gerald R. Ford Library
Role Title Holding Repository
Direct Relationships
Relation Name
associatedWith Apollo 11 (Spacecraft) corporateBody
employeeOf Boyne, Walter J., 1929- person
employerOf Collins, Michael, 1930- person
employeeOf Dailey, John R. person
employeeOf Engen, Donald Davenport, 1924-1999 person
associatedWith Ford, Gerald R., 1913-2006 person
associatedWith Friendship 7 (Spacecraft) corporateBody
associatedWith Garber, Paul Edward, 1899-1992 person
employeeOf Harwit, Martin, 1931- person
employeeOf Hinners, Noel W. person
employeeOf Hopkins, Philip S. person
associatedWith Johnston, S. Paul b. 1899 person
associatedWith Lopez, Donald S., 1923-2008 person
employeeOf Mitman, Carl Weaver, 1889- person
hierarchical-parent National Air and Space Museum (U.S.). Exhibits and Public Services Department. Public Services Division. corporateBody
associatedWith National Air Museum (U.S.) corporateBody
associatedWith Ripley, S. Dillon (Sidney Dillon), 1913-2001 person
associatedWith Smithsonian Institution. Assistant Secretary for Science. corporateBody
associatedWith Smithsonian Institution. Assistant Secretary for Science. corporateBody
associatedWith Smithsonian Institution. Office of the Secretary. Special Consultant to the Secretary (James C. Bradley). corporateBody
associatedWith Smithsonian Videohistory Program corporateBody
associatedWith Spirit of St. Louis (Airplane) corporateBody
employeeOf Taylor, Frank A. 1903- person
associatedWith Truman, Harry S., 1884-1972 person
employeeOf Tyler, James C., 1935- person
associatedWith United States National Museum. corporateBody
employeeOf Zisfein, Melvin B. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Outer space
Subject
Airplanes
Occupation
Function
Aeronautics
Education

Corporate Body

Active 1946

Active 1963

Active 1973

Active 1963

Active 1978

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