Museum intern Thomas Paone’s fascinating post on the funeral of Skippy, mascot of Navy Hedron 12, reminded me of my surprise – and delight – when I started finding a surprising number of photographs of animals in the files of the Museum archives. I had recently joined the National Air and Space Museum, and I guess I was expecting, well, air and space photographs. Those we had in plenty, of course, but also mobs of dogs, cats, horses, chimps, at least one woodchuck, an actual flying pig, and a famous lion. Later on, many of them made a public appearance in my book Animals Aloft. And on Sunday, December 13, some of them will even show up on TV when the video version of Animals Aloft premieres on the Smithsonian Channel.
Producer Gail Flannigan found wonderful old newsreel footage and recorded a number of compelling stories. My favorite may be the saga of Ham, the astronaut chimp, narrated by Benjamin Lawless – who knew Ham personally.
And here’s a short “behind the scenes” video – the camera and crew track in to a cold storage unit at the Museum’s Paul E. Garber Facility to reveal Gilmore, the famous far-flying lion mascot of aviator Roscoe Turner:
Hope you can tune in — and if you know any good aviation animal tales, please share them with us in the comments.
Allan Janus is a museum specialist in the National Air and Space Museum’s Archives Division.