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Astronaut autographs exhibition captures 'Reflections' of moon missions


Apollo astronaut photos as displayed in the Governor's Gallery at the New Mexico State Capitol. (NM Museum of Space History)
Jan. 19, 2014– A private archive of astronaut-autographed and inscribed photographs, hailed by its curators as being among the world's "largest and most important" collections of its type, is now on public display in New Mexico.

"Reflections: Images of Apollo," a temporary exhibit open through March 22 inside the Governor's Gallery at the New Mexico State Capitol in Santa Fe, presents a selection of lunar exploration photos from the collection amassed over 30 years by British space enthusiast Leslie Cantwell.

Since obtaining his first inscribed photo in 1981, Cantwell has sought to have the Apollo astronauts who flew to the moon add their handwritten notes and signatures to large-format prints of the scenes they alone witnessed in space.

"Leslie's quest has resulted in one of the most unique exhibits I have ever seen," said Chris Orwoll, executive director of the New Mexico Museum of Space History in Alamogordo. "Not only does each photo depict an historic moment in Apollo history, but the inscriptions bring that instant to life."


More than three dozen inscribed astronaut photographs comprise the "Reflections: Images of Apollo" exhibition at the New Mexico State Capitol's Governor's Gallery. (NM Museum of Space History)
More than three dozen pieces from Cantwell's collection were selected for the exhibit specifically because of their connection to New Mexico's moonwalkers, Edgar Mitchell and Harrison "Jack" Schmitt, the sixth and twelfth men to walk on the moon, respectively.

Each image has been enlarged from original NASA photos to large format 16 by 20 inch (41 by 51cm) prints. Cantwell then searched through classic literature and culled from the astronauts' own words for the handwritten inscriptions, seeking to create an emotional link between the images and the quotes applied to them.

"Some [of the photographs] are inscribed with poetry or quotes from Kipling or Dante, others with words spoken at the moment, and each bring a profound understanding and insight into the minds of the men and women who made that epic adventure a reality," Orwoll said.

Featured in the "Reflections: Images of Apollo" exhibit are photos highlighting Apollo 11 moonwalkers Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, Apollo 13 astronauts Jim Lovell and Fred Haise, and lunar voyagers Eugene Cernan, Charles Duke, Frank Borman and John Young, among others.


Collector Leslie Cantwell paired large format photos with quotes from classic literature and the astronauts themselves. (NMMSH)
Cantwell loaned the prints to the New Mexico Museum of Space History, which in turn provided them to the Capitol, nicknamed "the Roundhouse." Complementing the photos, the museum also furnished several space artifacts related to the lunar missions, including astronaut food that circled the moon 45 years ago on Apollo 8 and an American flag that flew on board Apollo 12.

"This collection also celebrates the astronauts who trained for the lunar landings in the State of New Mexico, as well as the amazing spacecraft they flew... much of which was designed and tested here in the Land of Enchantment," Orwoll said.

The Governor's Gallery, which is located just outside the governor's office on the fourth floor of the State Capitol, is an outreach facility of the New Mexico Museum of Art and the state's Department of Cultural Affairs. The open-to-the-public gallery hosts approximately six exhibits per year.

Cantwell's "Reflections: Images of Apollo" was previously displayed at Proud Galleries in London in 2007, and then two years later debuted at the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center in Hutchinson to mark the 40th anniversary of the first moon landing in 2009.


The New Mexico Museum of Space History loaned lunar artifacts, including an Apollo 12 flown flag and astronaut medical harness for display with "Reflections: Images of Apollo." (NMMSH)
After its three-month run at the New Mexico State Capitol, the prints will return to the New Mexico Museum of Space History for their continued display.

For more details about the "Reflections: Images of Apollo" exhibit, see the New Mexico Museum of Art's website.

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