“Our collection is more technology based,” says Williams. The bulk of what the archivists took “would be of interest to anyone interested in aviation law, and we don’t have a lot of materials on that.”
The end result: 40 cubic feet of materials stored in Building 10 at the Smithsonian’s Paul E. Garber Preservation, Restoration and Storage Facility in Suitland, Maryland. It includes things like a 1980 environmental impact statement on the development of the Bird Island flats near Logan Airport and a 1941 map showing Snow’s proposed flight routes for World War II supply aircraft marked in red grease pencil.
The Museum has still not created an official finder’s guide—a road map archivists create to help researchers navigate a collection—but the material in the boxes has some semblance of order, thanks, in part, to a friend of the Snow family who catalogued the files. (Researchers are permitted to access the collection at any time.)
In the end, the usefulness of a given collection could lie less with the facts than with its larger spirit. How can you classify observations such as this one, which Snow made in 1927 while making his first cross-country flight: “I navigated by dead reckoning. The cows, turning their behinds to the wind, showed me which direction it was blowing. Usually as I flew over cattle on their ranges, they barely budged. On this day, however, as I skimmed along at my customary low altitude, the cows scattered, startled by the noise of my plane. That meant I had strayed from my path: cows living on a direct course between cities were accustomed to airplanes.”
When Snow died at age 94, he’d been involved in nearly every level of aviation since its infancy and had helped lay the framework for the busy urban airports of the 21st century. Along the way he also took time to savor the pleasures of low-altitude flights over farm fields, and that’s Americana at its best.
The Planetarium’s Makeover
After a one-month renovation, the National Air and Space Museum’s Albert Einstein Planetarium is back—and better than before. The planetarium has gone digital, featuring a new technology that, in conjunction with the original Zeiss projector, uses 12 projectors to paint the entire surface of the 70-foot-high dome with images. The new technology gives viewers the sensations of three-dimensionality and movement. The latest show, “Infinity Express: A 20-Minute Tour of the Universe,” takes advantage of the new system by transporting viewers on a wild ride through an enormous canyon on Mars and giving them a tour of the cosmos, in which thousands of galaxies float past. General admission is $7.50; for more information, call (202) 357-2700.