National Air and Space Museum Gets a Facelift

The Wright Flyer, John Glenn’s Mercury spacecraft and the Apollo 11 spacesuit which Neil Armstrong wore on the moon, are just some of the countless space and air artefacts curated from Smithsonian, which will soon be exhibited in a renewed area in Washington, DC.

The Smithsonian revealed plans to revitalize the National Air and Space Museum within the next seven decades. The $900 million project will be accomplished on a phased schedule so that lots of the artefacts remain on view in display showcases as the building continues.

It’s ambitious, but it is a needed renovation of the building and a chance to make a new experience and new displays, and to place other artefacts on display that could have otherwise occurred in a more incremental way, said Peter Jakab, chief curator at the museum, in an interview with collectSPACE. We are being pushed to do bigger and bolder things than we may have done, but this is good, a more timely change the museum wish to make is on their website with a new website design.

Initially, the museum anticipated needing only to replace the heating, ventilation and electrical systems, which after almost 40 years had outlived their lifespan. But in planning to perform that work, it was found that the building’s outer rock was in a considerable state of disrepair, requiring that it too had to be replaced, Jakab explained.

So, that changed the game concerning the extent of the renovation and revitalization, he said. After that step was accomplished, it created the chance that each of the exhibitions would need to be touched in some way, even if it was just to replace the glass showcase systems in the exhibition.

The building will experience a complete refacing of its exterior cladding and its mechanical systems will be substituted. The visitor experience within the museum will also change with all 23 galleries and demonstration spaces being upgraded or completely redone.

The work will be split into separate stages, starting in summer 2018, with a part of the building open to people at all times. Construction is set to begin on the west side of the museum, which houses nine galleries, such as “Exploring the Planets.”

Some of the exhibitions haven’t significantly changed from the 41 years since the museum opened. The Milestones of Flight Hall, which visitors first encounter when entering the building, was renovated in 2016 and will be one of the last regions of the museum to be touched.

To safeguard the artefacts, most will be temporarily transferred to a state-of-the-art storage facility now being built close to the Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia. A few of the items in the National Mall building however, are too big to transport and will have to be worked around.

By way of instance, the Skylab [backup orbital workshop] will be protected in place as that is quite a big and difficult matter to move, said Jakab.

Following the artefacts return to the museum when building is finished, the new collections centre will be used to hold other museum items not currently on display.

Lots of the galleries are being re-imagined and remodelled to participate visitors while they’re in the memorial and after they leave.

We really want to redefine the museum in terms of it being an adventure than being a place, Jakab said. We want to create a seamless experience that’s both digital online through custom craft websites, in addition to walking the galleries at the building.

When the new exhibitions start to start in 2021, visitors to the museum will see a few of the artefacts in fresh settings. By way of instance, the Apollo 11 command module, Columbia, will be exhibited at a custom-designed, climate-controlled case in “Destination Moon,” a new gallery taking the place of their present “Apollo to the Moon.” Recently captured 3D photography of Columbia’s interior will be displayed together with the spacecraft, showing components that would otherwise stay concealed from public view.

All the exhibitions will also incorporate new demonstration spaces, allowing the people to interact with content specialists through demos and talks, all shared through internet webcasts. Rather than simply relaying information, the new galleries will provide hands-on experiences. From the remodelled “Exploring the Planets,” for instance, visitors will tour the solar system and have a walk on another world via an immersive experience.

The exhibitions through the museum will be grouped by theme to allow for a simpler way finding and a much better guest experience.

We’ll be collocating galleries of similar subject matter,” said Jakab. “We are going to have space exploration package, where we will have three galleries beside each other: a gallery that’s centred on Earth, “One World Connected,” a gallery that focuses on the solar system and the planets, and then the re-do of our Apollo exhibition, “Destination Moon,” that is one of our core subject areas.

So we will have an Earth-moon-planets set of galleries which are adjacent to one another, ” he explained.

The Smithsonian has asked funds in its own 2018 federal funding to start the Infrastructure and outdoor work. In the years to come, additional funds will be requested. The Smithsonian estimates the total cost of the revitalization to be about $650 million.

Every indication we have so far is that the members of Congress feel this Isn’t only a fantastic project, but essential. So we have a Great deal of confidence that the complete funding required to make the repairs will come, said Jakab.

Moreover, the National Air and Space Museum intends to privately raise the $250 million it needs for new exhibitions.

The transformation of exhibitions starts a new era for the museum. We’re Developing innovative approaches to experience America’s favorite museum, said Gen. J.R. “Jack” Dailey, the museum’s outgoing director.