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Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum is both the world's largest aviation collection and - by many calculations - the most popular museum on earth, welcoming upward of 7 million visitors a year. "Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum: An Autobiography" provides the first and only complete history and behind-the-scenes tour of this great institution. Gorgeously illustrated and engagingly told, the Autobiography does full justice to the soaring museum and its treasures. Five chapters, written by museum curators who live and breathe the artifacts and their stories, reveal how closely intertwined the Smithsonian Institution and the Air and Space Museum have been with the fields of air travel and space exploration. Five hundred colour photographs and artworks, spanning the amazing century-and-a-half of flight development, evoke both the epic scale of these efforts and the very human-size detail on which every success must depend. Beginning with the early days of Smithsonian interest in powered flight, this exciting history culminates in the upcoming construction of a new wing of the Udvar-Hazy Center, commissioned because the museum's holdings and popularity simply overflowed current accommodations. The book does not avoid the controversies. Why did Smithsonian officials choose not to support the Wright brothers in their early experiments? What are the cultural ramifications of displaying the Enola Gay? Stories and pictures tackle these touchy subjects head on. For every era, museum staff select their favourite artifacts in a feature called Curator's Pick. Another innovative feature emphasizes the size and scope of museum collections: for every chapter, a different type of artifact is chosen - propellers, engines, medals, or space suits, for example - and a single composition shows dozens and dozens of the artifact type, with a graphic representation of how these objects the size of the overall collection. Backroom renovation techniques are pictured and explained, giving readers a glimpse of what happens before an aircraft goes on display. Finally, a time line puts each stage of the museum's development into a broader historic context, with side-by-side information on concurrent happenings in the world at large. At once a stunning keepsake of a world-class museum experience, a fitting tribute to the legends of aviation, and a colourful resource on the history of flight...the Autobiography will please on many levels.
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About the Author

Authors and editors all serve as curators at the National Air and Space Museum and several are published authors- Michael Neufeld, chair of the division of space history at NASM; Tom D. Crouch, aeronautics senior curator; Ted Maxwell, senior scientist; aeronautics curators Alex Spencer, Dominick Pisano, and Dik Daso; and Bob van der Linden, chair of the aeronautics division. General John R. Dailey (USMC, Ret.) is the Director of the National Air and Space Museum and recently former Associate Deputy Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). He served 36 years in the United States Marine Corps, served two tours in Vietnam, and has earned numerous decorations for his service in the Marine Corps and NASA.


"Informative as this work's text is, visuals are its preeminent value: with about 700 color and black-and-white photographs, it will absorb aviation browsers and could well incite pilgrimages to the museum." --Booklist "The most popular museum in the U.S. has a pedigree in flight extending back to the Civil War's observation balloons, a history this volume celebrates." -Booklist

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