I’ve worked as a curator at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum for more than three decades. It has been an amazing ride. I’ve done things and met people I could never have in any other job. In that time I have had many reasons to be thankful. Thankful to have closely studied artifacts that have changed the world, like the Wright Flyer. Thankful to have met larger-than-life figures whose accomplishments are in the historical firmament for all time, such Neil Armstrong and John Glenn. Thankful to have worked with many world-class scholars and museum professionals. Thankful to have contributed to projects that have let me express my creativity. Thankful to have had many co-workers I also call friends. But most of all I am thankful I work in a place that affords me the opportunity to inspire others. The National Air and Space Museum is full of extraordinary machines, but every one of those machines represents people. People who built them, people who flew them, people who in some way contributed to those machines that have advanced humans as a species. These machines are rich with inspiring stories. My job is to bring those stories to our visitors. If in some modest way my work provides a window onto historical achievements that stir imagination and ambition in others, provides an entrée to a heretofore undiscovered career path, or simply causes someone to rethink their limitations, then I have done something that has made a difference. I will feel as if my life’s work has mattered. The Smithsonian has given me an incredible set of tools to do this job. I am thankful to have been so fortunate to have received this gift.
- Peter Jakab, chief curator, National Air and Space Museum
I’m thankful for having played a small part in the Museum’s efforts to make the history of aviation and aerospace a legitimate topic of scholarship. We now have prospective fellows in graduate programs in the U.S. and Europe who want to come here and work on their topics and publish work in the field. This wasn’t the case when I started to work here in the 1970s.
- Dominick A. Pisano, curator, National Air and Space Museum
I am grateful to work in an organization that is respected and beloved around the world. People have nothing but praise and affection for the Smithsonian, and especially for the National Air and Space Museum. So many people share fond memories of their first or frequent visits here; it is gratifying to hear them and to make one’s own modest contributions to meaningful visitor experiences. I am also grateful for the privilege of working with colleagues who are among the best, brightest, most creative, and most motivated professionals. Something I appreciate most about working here: no two days are the same! There is always a new challenge or opportunity to keep things lively.
-Valerie Neal, curator, National Air and Space Museum
From all of us at the National Air and Space Museum, we would like to express our gratitude to our fellow colleagues and to you, our visitors, for making this Museum such a wonderful place to work.