AidSpace Blog

Phase Two—The New Wing

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Looking at the seemingly endless aisles of crates at the Paul E. Garber Restoration and Storage Facility, it is not a great stretch of the imagination to picture Indiana Jones scouring these narrow labyrinths for that anonymous wooden crate housing the notorious Ark. Images of Garber bring to mind the sheer size of the Museum’s collection of aircraft, spacecraft, related artifacts, and archival materials–a collection that, with some 60,000 artifacts, is the largest of its kind. It is hard for me to keep my jaw from dropping to the ground when I think of its enormity, value, and historic significance.


It's easy to imagine Indiana Jones searching for the Ark among this labyrinth of wooden crates.

Garber’s staff works tirelessly to preserve and restore this immense collection of historic and iconic artifacts. However, working conditions are less than ideal as limited space and equipment hinder the progress of various projects.

This will all change with the completion of the new wing of the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center—“Phase Two”—which will be dedicated to the behind-the-scenes care of the collection.  The new wing, which will be furnished with state-of-the-art equipment and provide roughly three and a half times more space than Garber, will greatly aid staff in their work to restore, process, store, and conserve the collection. Located south of the James S. McDonnell Space Hangar at the Udvar-Hazy Center, Phase Two will include five facilities: the Mary Baker Engen Restoration Hangar, Collections Storage, Archives, the Emil Buehler Conservation Laboratory, and the Collections Processing Unit.

Phase Two

Providing about three and a half times more space and furnished with state-of-the-art equipment, Phase Two will make the work of preserving and restoring the Museum’s collection much easier.

The Mary Baker Engen Restoration Hangar will be able to house several aircraft at one time, giving specialists the space and resources to restore and maintain artifacts. The additional room and equipment will allow the Museum to resume various restoration projects, such as that of the Curtiss SB2C-5 Helldiver—the same type of aircraft that former director of the National Air and Space Museum, Donald Engen, flew in World War II.

And perhaps the most exciting part of this new hangar is the glassed-in mezzanine that will allow the public to catch a glimpse of Museum specialists in action. So keep your eyes peeled for that Helldiver when Phase Two is complete.

Observation Deck

An observation deck overlooking the restoration hangar will give the public a rare opportunity to observe firsthand the process of restoring aircraft and spacecraft.

The new collections storage space will eventually allow for all artifacts to be moved from Garber to the more modern facility, enabling staff to preserve and store artifacts more efficiently. The two-level facility will include environmental controls, compact shelving, and special storage units. This will allow the Museum to maximize storage space while effectively storing a diverse collection of objects ranging from commemorative medals to large power plants, and even wolf fur used in the Arctic, to mention a few.

Not to forget about the valuable and rare records in the Museum’s hands, the archives will house more than 12,000 cubic feet of documentation in addition to more than 1.75 million photographs and 14,000 film and video titles.

The Emil Buehler Conservation Laboratory will further aid staff by providing guidance on storage and exhibition conditions as well as innovative treatment plans for preservation. The new collections processing area will consist of a special loading dock and secure area where artifacts can be inspected; cleaned; assembled and disassembled; and wrapped and protected for optimum preservation.

The completion of the new wing will provide the Museum with a modern facility that will help behind-the-scenes staff with their important work. It will ultimately bring the Museum one step closer to accomplishing its mission to collect and preserve the nation’s aviation and space history.

Ciara Richards is an intern in the Aeronautics Division of the National Air and Space Museum.

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9 thoughts on “Phase Two—The New Wing

  1. There will certainly be something lost when NASM has completely moved out of Garber. I’m glad I got to see it before they started moving stuff out. Still, the new wing looks like it will be a lovely place to work, and certainly a better storage environment. I look forward to doing research in the new archives!

  2. I’ll second the comment about the Ho229!

    I’ve mailed you guys before about this ‘plane. Why was it not restored decades ago? It was a revolutionary, visionary project conceived and built in the most arduous of times (the closing stages of WWII) when, thankfully, the guts were being bombed out of the Nazi war machine and therefore it never saw service. If it had reached service with adequately trained pilots to fly it and if there was fuel to have fuelled it, it might have presented a frightening opponent to allied air forces of the time.

    In spite of all the problems they faced the Horten brothers still succeeded in building and flying a machine that incorporated jet power, revolutionary control methods, the lowest possible radar profile and radar absorbing composites in its structure; none of this had been done before. Indeed, it was so far ahead of its time that I understand that engineers from Northrop examined it when working initially on the B2 stealth bomber and the like. This technology was not successfully flown again until modern day stealth projects; was this some 40 years or so later?

    Could it be argued that the HO229 was taken by force from Europe at the end of WWII along with some many other objects of interest, e.g. DO335 Pfeil (which you have renovated)? Whether or not this is a legitimate argument, it was taken and in doing so the United States assumed responsibility for it. Therefore I would think that the Smithsonian has a duty to ensure that it is available for all of the world’s aviation enthusiasts to see, not just those who want to see specifically American exhibits. I come back to the point that it is a truly unique ‘plane that was decades ahead of its time and a significant engineering achievement. I may be biased, but I know others will support my feeling that it is as or even more deserving of a place in your galleries than some of the far less historically significant exhibits that I’ve seen listed on your website.

    When I look at the aircraft that you are so fortunate to have on display (as wonderful and mind-boggling a collection as it is possible to be fortunate to have) I think to myself that there is a lack of appreciation of where this aircraft sits in the annals of aviation history. I would be interested to follow up this posting with a conversation about your plans to restore the HO229. I hope that the moderator of this page will be able to pass my comments on to your restoration department’s manager.

    One day, I will not be burdened with family responsibilities that require me to stay in the UK. When that is so I plan to do a tour of aviation museums in the US. I sincerely hope that when that is so, I’ll be able to see this amazing aircraft on display, restored in all its glory. Thank you.

  3. The Horten H IX certainly was very advanced for its day but its lack of stability about the yaw axis would probably have seriously compromised its effectiveness as a fighter interceptor equipped with large 30mm cannons with slow rates of fire and mounted offset a considerable distance from the center of the aircraft.

    It would be difficult for the National Air and Space Museum to restore an airplane that had not been completed at the time the U. S. Army claimed it in 1945. I think the wing will resonate with all the interesting stories it has to tell if the Museum carefully preserves it and then joins the two outer wing panels to the center section for public display. At the moment, it appears that Museum Collections Specialists may be able to move the center section to the Udvar-Hazy Center next spring to joint the wing panels already stored there.

  4. I completely agree with Tim Beesley,at the end of WWII there were many interesting Aircraft design that were developed in Germany and lot of what was researched was subsequently used in developing modern jet fighters , etc. I was looking for the Junkers 388 but could not find it.

    I think NASM would do justice to restore old aircraft, specifically the ones that were far ahead of their times like the Ho 229, Dornier 335 etc to its full glory for us to experience the enginering and the technical abilities these Aircrafts had at that time…

    Hopefully we shall see that happening soon.

    Best Regards


  5. Russell

    Thank you so much for your reply. This is very exciting news you are giving! And surprising too! I wrote to the Smithsonian over a year ago about this plane and was given the impression that there was no time-table for its restoration. So your advice that your Department may begin work on it next spring is really welcome.

    Do you have a schedule of work for this project, i.e. an idea of how long it will be before it is displayed?

    I look forward to further updates. Would it be possible for you to take a note of my email, in order that I am advised of future developments as they occur? Having to continually check back on the Smithsonian’s web pages in order to keep informed can be a hit-and-miss process and is time consuming too, as can be seen from the time-delay in my reply to your posting. Your assistance will be appreciated. Alternatively, will there be updates on the Smithsonian’s emailed news letters (to which I already subscribe) that will keep us informed of progress?

    I look forward to developments and offer my best wishes for your department’s move to its new centre at Udvar-Hazy, and for your work on this particular restoration. Thank you.

    Tim Beesley

  6. I am kind of frustrated that NASM/Garber does not have an accessable record of apparently even major aircraft components that could shed a light on what they have and don’t have. My big issue is that I cannot get any confirmation of the horizontal surfaces for many of the aircraft fuselages that are shown in photos. Because only phots of the fuselages are seen, people presume that is all that is left…however I have been informed that in many cases these wingless fuselages have their horizontal surfaces stored separately. Odd that there is no simple inventory of major components at least. Maybe when there is more room.

  7. Hoodoo,

    Thanks for your feedback. We have information available online for approximately 20,000 objects (just under 1/3 of our collections) and curators are continually making more available as resources allow. In the meantime, please feel free to contact the Museum’s Archives here or by phone: 703-572-4045. They can assist you in your research.

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