Viewport:The Muse in Museum
- By J.R. Dailey
- Air & Space magazine, November 2010
"Viewport," by National Air and Space Museum director J.R. Dailey, opens each issue of Air & Space magazine. The column highlights the Museum's ongoing efforts to preserve the history of aviation and spaceflight. This article appeared in the October/November 2010 issue of Air & Space.
Glacier Girl, a 1942 Lockheed P-38F Lightning, lifted piece by piece from deep within a Greenland glacier and precisely restored, is probably the most famous airplane flying today. For the past four years, its current owner (and National Air and Space Museum board member), Rod Lewis, has displayed the aircraft at airshows around the country, where it always draws crowds. Air & Space magazine published a cover story about its ill-fated World War II mission and later restoration, which you can read in the magazine’s archive at airspacemag.com. Now visitors to the National Air and Space Museum can hear the story from Bob Cardin, the man who has been with Glacier Girl for 18 years, from the day it emerged from the ice, through its 10-year restoration, to its recent airshow tours. Bob will speak about the legendary P-38 at an evening lecture on October 6.
We are fortunate to be able to host someone like Bob, whose experience, knowledge, and passion for this airplane can enlighten the rest of us. He joins an impressive group of people who have lectured at the Museum: We’ve learned about aerobatics from airshow great Bob Hoover, about the airline business from airline executive Herb Kelleher, about the Apollo 8 mission from the astronauts who flew it, and about life as the first female U.S. Air Force Thunderbird pilot from Nicole Malachowski. You can view their lectures on the Museum’s Web site: nasm.si.edu.
When distinguished leaders and aviators like these visit us, they elevate our Museum beyond a mere building for displaying objects to a center of learning. They restore the original sense of “museum”—a shrine dedicated to the Muses—and make the Museum a place of inspiration.
Our resident experts also foster the Museum’s ability to educate and inspire. Every Wednesday at both the Museum on the Mall and the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in northern Virginia, curators give brief talks, usually on one of the artifacts in the collection. Forthcoming topics include the Lockheed Sirius Tingmissartoq, which Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh flew to the Far East in 1931 and on 1933 survey flights to pioneer commercial air routes across the Atlantic. You can be sure that if you visit at noon on any given Wednesday, you will drop in on an interesting talk.
Surrounded by objects that represent technological triumph over challenge, visitors will find it hard not to feel inspired. As Nicole Malachowski said in her lecture, “This place has the ability to change people’s lives.” Nicole went on to say that when she visited the Museum as a sixth grader with dreams of becoming a fighter pilot (before women could be), she realized that aviation was about courage, confidence, and taking chances to achieve things that others had not done before. Aviation certainly can be inspirational. It’s just a whole lot more so when people like Bob Cardin and Nicole Malachowski are here to tell you about it.
J.R. Dailey is the director of the National Air and Space Museum.