Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum

Aviation treasures returning to National Air & Space Museum

The Smithsonian’s National Air & Space Museum has been closed for a while to reboot with two dozen new exhibits. At least 8 of the galleries are set to open this fall.

One of those returning soon is The Wright Brothers & The Invention of the Aerial Age, an update of the popular exhibition of the same name that has housed the 1903 Wright Flyer since 2003.

As a preview, the museum shared pictures of some of the artifacts we’ll see when the exhibit reopens and pointed us to aviation-themed treasures in the vaults.

12 seconds. That is how long Orville Wright’s first powered flight in the 1903 Wright Flyer lasted. The Wright Brothers used this stopwatch to time the December 1903 flight. The watch will be on display in the reimagined Wright Brothers exhibition.

On

Once the Wright Brothers showed how ‘easy’ it was to fly, it didn’t take long for the public to become fascinated with airplanes and airplane-themed things. And for flight themes to appear on jewelry, in games, and in art.

Here are a few great objects from the National Air & Space Museum’s collection that we hope we’ll see when the galleries reopen. See you there!

(All images courtesy of the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum)

Board Game, Lindbergh, King Collection (A20040289048).
Pillbox with an airplane on the lid
Gold-colored small jewelry charm in the shape of an early monoplane with a visible fuselage frame and propeller that spins.

How DO Toilets Work in Space?

The Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. is getting a massive makeover that includes the construction and renovation of 23 galleries.

As part of that process, which is set to be completed sometime in 2025, the whole museum has been closed since March.

But the west wing is scheduled to open in the fall of 2022 with new exhibitions that explore a wide variety of aviation themes, including the Wright Brothers’ story, planets and moons, early aviation, high-speed technology, and other topics.

In advance of the opening, the Smithsonian is adopting a new brand identity and logomark for the National Air and Space Museum that “uses positive and negative space to create a stylized craft that simultaneously suggests both aviation and space flight.”

Look for it at the end of this inspiring “Space for Everyone” video that gives a nod to “airheads, space cases, flight fanatics, armchair astronauts, and the casually curious.” And to those who are “captivated by the miracle of flight and those who are just happy to make their flight.”

See where you land.

Museums to plan a trip around in 2022

Museums, and museum attendance, took a big hit during the height of the pandemic, with shutdowns, exhibition cancelations, and delayed openings. But many museums are back on track for 2022 with major exhibitions and some museums opening their doors for the first time.

Here are a few that might warrant a special trip.

Harry Potter: The Exhibition

The world premiere of the Harry Potter: The Exhibition opens at Philadelphia’s Franklin Institute science museum on February 18, 2022. 

The exhibit celebrates many of the iconic moments, characters, settings, and magical beasts that fans are familiar with from the films and stories of Harry Potter and the Wizarding World. Visitors are promised a close-up look at authentic props and original costumes from the Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts films and the opportunity to experience innovative, magical environments and installations.

Gateway: The Deep Space Launch Complex

The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Center in Merritt Island, Florida opens a new attraction in March, Gateway: The Deep Space Launch Complex, focusing on the present and future of collaborative space exploration.

Exhibits include a SpaceX Falcon 9 booster, the Orion Crew Vehicle from EFT-1 Mission, a full-scale replica of Sierra Space’s Dream Chaser, interactive exhibits, and more. Among the many activities in the building, visitors will be able to experience a 4D flying theater with four different journeys: Cosmic Wonders, Daring Explorers, Red Planet, or Uncharted Worlds.

Into the Deep

A new deep-sea exhibition opens at the Monterey Bay Aquarium in April 2022.

Into the Deep will feature the largest display of deep-sea life in North America, everything from football-sized giant isopods and bone-eating worms to bloody belly comb jellies, sea angels, snailfish, and more.

courtesy Olson Kundig

The Bob Dylan Center

The Bob Dylan Center will open in Tulsa, Oklahoma’s downtown arts district on May 5, 2022, and is dedicated to the life, work, and worldwide cultural significances of the iconic folk-rock singer and songwriter, visual artist, and Nobel prize winner. Exhibits will draw from a collection of more than 100,000 items spanning Dylan’s career, including handwritten manuscripts, films, photographs, artwork, memorabilia, personal documents, and effects. Fans will also be able to hear some unreleased studio and concert recordings.

Bonus: Tulsa is also home to the Woody Guthrie Center and Leon Russell’s Church Studio.

Courtesy Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

Spock’s Ears

The Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, which includes locations in Washington, DC and in Chantilly, VA will be opening 23 new and redesigned galleries and spaces during 2022.

Opening dates will vary, but the Kenneth C. Griffin Exploring the Planets Gallery (scheduled opening: fall 2022) will feature at least one, out-of-this-world, newly acquired treasure.

The family of the late Leonard Nimoy has donated a set of prosthetic ears made for the actor who played Mr. Spock in the original Star Wars television series.

Bonus: the museum’s collection also includes the original 11-foot studio model of the starship Enterprise that appeared in each episode of the original series.

Museum Monday

When we’re not hanging out in airports, we’re heading to a museum. And in 2022 we have our hearts set on revisiting some reliable favorites and checking out some great new museums and enticing exhibitions around the country and the world.

Here’s a sampling.

Mount Angel Abbey Museum

For many reasons, the museum at Mount Angel Abbey in Saint Benedictine, Oregon is one of our favorites. It is filled will all sorts of natural history and man-made wonders gathered from around the world, including the hairball, above, found in the belly of a hog in Portland in the 1940s and weighing in at just over 2 pounds. What could be better?

There are bonuses on the monastery grounds beyond the museum. At the Benedictine Brewery, monks do the brewing, using water from an onsite well and hops grown on the land. The monastery’s light-filled library, designed by noted Finnish architect Alvar Aalto, is a must-see too. Opened in 1970, it was dedicated with the help of Duke Ellington.

(Ellington at Mount Angel Abbey Library dedication from Third Angle on Vimeo.)

Museum openings and exhibitions

Some recently opened destinations include the National Museum of the United States Army, near Washington, D.C.; a Dino Safari: A Walk-Thru Adventure in  Boston; the Savoy Automobile Museum in Cartersville, GA, the Comic-Con Museum in San Diego; and a major international retrospective of Andy Warhol at the Aspen Art Museum.

Here are a couple of openings to look for in 2022:

Gateway: The Deep Space Launch Complex

Courtesy Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex

The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Center in Merritt Island, Florida opens a new attraction in March.

Gateway: The Deep Space Launch Complex focuses on the present and future of collaborative space exploration.

Exhibits include a SpaceX Falcon 9 booster, the Orion Crew Vehicle from EFT-1 Mission, a full-scale replica of Sierra Space’s Dream Chaser, interactive exhibits, and more. Among the many activities in the building, visitors will be able to experience a 4D flying theater with four different journeys: Cosmic Wonders, Daring Explorers, Red Planet, or Uncharted Worlds.

Spock’s Ears – and more

Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

Courtesy Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

The Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, which includes locations in Washington, DC and in Chantilly, VA, will open 23 new and redesigned galleries and spaces during 2022.

Opening dates will vary, but the Kenneth C. Griffin Exploring the Planets Gallery (scheduled opening: fall 2022) will feature at least one, out-of-this-world, newly acquired treasure: Mr. Spock’s ears.

The family of the late Leonard Nimoy has donated a set of prosthetic ears made for the actor who played Mr. Spock in the original Star Wars television series. The pointed, foam ear tips date to the 1960s and were displayed by the family for many years in a homemade black box.

And as a bonus, the museum’s collection also includes the original 11-foot studio model of the starship Enterprise that appeared in each episode of the original series.

Courtesy Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

Stay tuned for more museum exhibitions to put on your agenda during our Year of Museums and let us know about some of your favorites.

EU may soon welcome back US Travelers + Smithsonian’s Udvar-Hazy Center to reopen

Sick of being stuck at home? Eyeing Europe for that first post-pandemic trip?

You may be in luck. A New York Times story on Sunday evening offers real hope that you may be able to head that way. Perhaps as early as this summer.

According to the NYT, the EU is Set to Let Vaccinated U.S. Tourists Visit This Summer.

Nonessential travel into EU countries from the US has been shut down for more than a year. But European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen tells the New York Times that the union’s 27 members will accept people who are vaccinated with vaccines approved by the European Medicines Agency (E.M.A.). The agency gives the OK to the three vaccines being used in the United States: Moderna, Pfizer/BioNTech, and Johnson & Johnson.

“The Americans, as far as I can see, use European Medicines Agency-approved vaccines,” von der Leyen said. “This will enable free movement and travel to the European Union.”

No exact timeline for easing the travel restrictions is set. And discussions are still underway on how to create a safe and technologically reliable way for travelers to show a vaccine certificate. But on Monday Greece plans to begin opening its borders to travelers who show proof of vaccination or a negative coronavirus test.

More information will likely come out this week. But, yay!? Are you ready to go?

Until the EU is open, how about a trip to space?

Mercury MR-3, “Freedom 7” and Apollo 11 Command Module, “Columbia. ” Smithsonian Photo by Mark Avino

While the National Air & Space Museum on the National Mall in Washington D.C. remains closed for now, the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, near Washington Dulles International Airport, announces it will reopen on Wednesday, May 5.

Free, timed entry passes are available. And masks, of courses, are required of all visitors. But this is good news for avgeeks and space fans alike.

In celebration of the 60th anniversary of Alan Shepard’s historic spaceflight on May 5, 1961, the Mercury capsule Freedom 7 is now on display at the Udvar-Hazy Center. That capsule sits next to command module Columbia, which took the Apollo 11 astronauts to the Moon and back in 1969. (Above)

This Blue Angels F-18 Hornet is new to the collection and is now on display in the Boeing Aviation Hangar.

The Blue Angel McDonnell Douglas F/A-18C Hornet in the Boeing Aviation Hangar. Smithsonian Photo

Can’t get to the museum just yet? Check out the Air & Space Museum’s online artifact database (including some 3D images), the podcast, and other resources.