Comments: Selected Exhibits

National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC, DC, US,

Two exhibits are noted:

1. "The Wright Brothers and The Invention of the Aerial Age," curator Peter Jakab

The 1903 Wright flyer has for years been an icon, displayed overhead in the entrance to the museum. It is now at ground level where it can be examined close-up, in an exhibit that includes a number of models and demonstrations that enable visitors to understand specific features. The exhibit opened in 2003and will remain for an indefinite period.

After its historic flight the airplane was taken apart and stored by the brothers until Orville reassembled and repaired it for display in 1916. It was meticulously studied and restored by the museum in the 1980s. Most of the structural elements now shown are original, the main exception being the fabric covering (a portion of the original can be seen nearby).

Other objects include shaped samples used in wind-tunnel experiments, tools belonging to the man who helped build the engine, and a launching dolly used in the 1903 flight.
On-line version:

2. "Explore the Universe," curator David DeVorkin

This exhibit emphasizes the ways in which our understanding of the cosmos has been determined by instruments—from the astrolabe to telescope, photography, spectroscopy, and digital enhancement. The exhibit opened in 2001and will remain for an indefinite period.

A rich collection of objects includes a quadrant astrolabe (c1325), Herschel 20-foot telescope (1783, rebuilt by son John in 1820; on loan from the National Maritime Museum), an upper section (“cage” where astronomers, including Hubble, would sit) from the 100-inch Mt. Wilson telescope, and a back-up mirror for the Hubble telescope. These are accompanied by models and graphics and demonstrations (some interactive). There is also a bulletin board for updates.
On-line version:

Bernard Finn
National Museum of American History
Smithsonian Institution
January, 2017