Ground crew unload a Douglas DC-2 of Pan American - Grace Airways, c.1940.
Pulling up stakes is always hard to do, especially if you’re packing up and moving a million plus documents, photographs, films, engineering drawings, tech manuals, and all the other treasures that make up the National Air and Space Museum’s Archives Division. Starting in May, some of our reference and reproduction services will be suspended as we get ready for the move to our great new facilities at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center Phase Two. Right now, these are the affected services and the dates on which they’ll be suspended:
May 1, 2010 – Photo orders; film and video requests.
August 1 – Reproductions of microfilm, drawings, and technical manuals; Photocopies of collections material; Donations to the Archives Division collections.
September 1 – Research appointments at the Paul E. Garber Facility Reading Room in Suitland, Maryland.
We’ll continue to field permission and reference requests, but there may be delays in responding – we’re going to be rather busy. Oh, yes – the Archives and Library reading room in the National Mall building will still be open for research by appointment during the move period.
Watch the Archives Division’s web page for late-breaking bulletins about the move, and please contact us with any questions about Archives services as the process unfolds.
Aerial photo showing Phase Two of the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center under construction in November, 2009. Photo by Duane Lempke, Sisson Studios, Inc.
Allan Janus is a museum specialist in the Museum’s Archives Division.
Cartoon by Richard Thompson (NASM 9A02888); Richard Thompson and Smithsonian Magazine
It was about twenty years ago, but no one in the Museum’s Archives Division can now remember who first asked us the immortal question – what‘s the wingspan of a Lockheed P-38 Lightning?
The answer, by the way, is fifty-two feet – exactly. It’s a classic example of the countless “ready reference” questions that have challenged the Archives staff over the years. And for some reason, the Division’s staff has adopted it as something of a motto, or slogan, or battle cry – it’s the premiere aerospace fact that’s taught to new staff members, and they’re expected to be able to rattle it off on command.
Besides our primary responsibility of acquiring, arranging, and preserving the documentary material of air and space history for public and curatorial use, we assist visiting researchers and also handle great numbers of letters, emails, and telephone calls through our reference desk – everyone from historians and congressional offices to school kids working on their homework, plus the odd bar bet from time to time. We take pride in the fact that we answer every question, or provide guidance to other reference sources.
Here’s another question we get asked from time to time – Number of golf balls on the Moon? Answer – two. No, we don’t know what brand.
Got a question for us? We’re trying out a new reference feature this week that we’re calling Ask an Expert. We’re looking for easier ways for people to contact us, and we’d also like to build up a searchable FAQ of answers to useful questions – so starting today and running through Friday, August 7, ask us something and we’ll do our best to shoot you back an answer. Some questions may require that we do a bit of digging in the files, so we can’t quite guarantee an instant reply – not quite yet.