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Author Topic:   NASA artifacts and Lucite encasing
Lunatiki
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From: Amarillo, TX, USA
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posted 11-11-2007 05:21 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Lunatiki     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
What do most collectors think about encasing items in Lucite? Is it still being done to items or was this only done in the "old days"? Personally, I think it does a great disservice (damage) to the item encased. Much like shellacking an autograph baseball kills the value, I see encasing in Lucite as even worse.

Does anyone else feel that encasing artifacts in Lucite was a big mistake? Which, as a collector, would you prefer?

MCroft04
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posted 11-11-2007 06:39 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for MCroft04   Click Here to Email MCroft04     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I don't like the Lucite; you can't touch the artifact. Also, can the item be safely extracted from the Lucite? I have my concerns that once in Lucite forever in Lucite.

Lunatiki
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posted 11-11-2007 06:49 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Lunatiki     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Was there one particular person who was responsible for the decision to start encasing official NASA items in Lucite?

And what about the practice of gluing flags onto surfaces for presentation? Yes, it was many years ago when this was done, but even in the 60's they had to of known the historical significance of some of these items. Surely they realized there was a reason the Constitution wasn't laminated or glued to a piece of cardboard. Perhaps at the time they saw the practice itself as "space age".

4allmankind
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posted 11-11-2007 07:09 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for 4allmankind   Click Here to Email 4allmankind     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I am a big fan of lucites.

In my eyes, encasing an item in lucite re-affirms the item embedded is truly collectible and highly desired.

To this day, whenever I show off my collection to non-collecting friends and family, my acrylics seem to get the biggest positive response.

As always, to each his/her own.

Russ Still
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posted 11-11-2007 07:14 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Russ Still   Click Here to Email Russ Still     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I guess I have mixed feelings. Some of these look really good and they are great for display. But then on the other hand, I'm loathe to suggest encasing any historic relic in something so permanent.

Larry McGlynn
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posted 11-11-2007 08:03 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Larry McGlynn   Click Here to Email Larry McGlynn     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Having artifacts in lucite is like taking a shower with your socks on.

Actually, lucites are good for making a nice display for a fragment of heatshield or Kapton foil, but putting a complete artifact into lucite would destroy the value of the piece itself.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 11-11-2007 09:01 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
With 20+ acrylic-encased artifacts in my collection, I guess you could call me a fan of the format. But I also have similar loose items to those in Lucite. Each offer different appeals.

The loose items, of course, provide the benefit of tactile interaction. This can add a lot to the experience of owning an artifact, but at the same time, many of the items that are chosen for embedding are of the size and type that could be easily broken if handled too much. Heatshield segments can and do fall apart; solar cells can crack; and parachute segments can rip. All can be damaged by the natural oils in fingertips.

Acrylics offer an elegant means of displaying smaller artifacts like no other medium can provide. When lit from underneath and behind, the encased artifact can practically glow. It's true that it is more or less a permanent action encasing an item in Lucite, but that may not always be such a bad thing.

Most of the items that are encased are small. There aren't many options to displaying metal shavings from a rocket, a nut, a screw or a sunflower seedling grown in space. You could frame them, but wall space is often at a premium. You can keep them on a shelf, but dust gathers quickly. You can keep them in a box, but then they're hidden from view.

So acrylics do serve a purpose, both from a display and preservation perspective. I can appreciate the alternative view, and I wouldn't advocate an intact artifact being encased, but given the choice between a loose small segment and a professionally embedded one of the same, I think I would choose the latter.

LCDR Scott Schneeweis
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posted 11-11-2007 09:18 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for LCDR Scott Schneeweis   Click Here to Email LCDR Scott Schneeweis     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
In the case of lucites produced by contractors or institutions during the early post years of Apollo, encapsulation also aids with establishing provenance - I am disinclined to purchase a heatshield fragment which is loose as it would be very unlikely to definatively prove what spacecraft it originated from.

R.Glueck
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posted 11-13-2007 06:43 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for R.Glueck   Click Here to Email R.Glueck     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Certain artifacts will deteriorate if allowed to remain free from protection. Consider, not a space object, but the Lira and Silver Certificates recovered from the "Andrea Doria".

My thoughts would remain along the line of hardware, switches, control knobs, mechanical devices, tools, remain untouched and accessible for handling and careful examination. Fragments of heat shield, rock, flags, medals, coins, etc., may be encased as display pieces.

gliderpilotuk
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posted 11-14-2007 02:35 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for gliderpilotuk   Click Here to Email gliderpilotuk     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by LCDR Scott Schneeweis:
In the case of lucites produced by contractors or institutions during the early post years of Apollo, encapsulation also aids with establishing provenance
I agree with that. I have personally encased pieces of kapton in lucite but would never encase my flown heatshield plugs or large heatshield pieces as I prefer to get "up-close" to them.

My motto: if it's not fragile, don't encase it... and certainly don't chop it up into small pieces!

freshspot
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posted 11-14-2007 04:33 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for freshspot   Click Here to Email freshspot     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Good discussion. For me, Lucite is great for display when it is for one item among many that were available and, as Scott says, aids in establishing authenticity. So for a heatshield fragment that is one of a hundred, a piece of Kapton that is one of many, a strip of film that is an inch or two from a reel, or a screw Lucite is ideal.

However, I would hate to see a one-of-a-kind piece encased in Lucite.

mjanovec
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posted 11-15-2007 03:51 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for mjanovec   Click Here to Email mjanovec     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by LCDR Scott Schneeweis:
In the case of lucites produced by contractors or institutions during the early post years of Apollo, encapsulation also aids with establishing provinance

I think this also carries forward to the more recent lucites produced by the Cosmosphere for the Liberty Bell 7 filmstrips, nuts, and bolts. Without the lucite presentation, anyone could produce a rusty nut and sell it on Ebay, saying it came from the Liberty Bell 7. However, the time and effort to perfectly encase it in lucite to replicate the Cosmosphere's presentation would be prohibitive to just about anyone trying to scam another collector.

1202 Alarm
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posted 11-15-2007 04:23 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for 1202 Alarm     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
As far as I know, Romans or Greeks coins, as fragile as they are, are never encased in Lucite. The collectors or museum curators would laugh or be terrified just at the idea.

Personally, I can take care of my memorabilia without having to encase them forever in some material. I own incredibly fragile Babylonian tablets. They are 4'300 years old, far more fragile than any of my flown space hardware. Just to imagine them in Lucite is an impossible thought. Beside, any Lucite item will probably, one day or another, turn a bit yellowish. But that's not the main point. You just can't destroy what you own just because it's yours. And for me, lucite is destruction. What is absurd for archeological or coins also stands for our space items. Again, it's just MY opinion.

PS. One last thought. If the current market is so full of fakes that, to be sure we're buying a genuine artifact and not a fake, it now has to be put in Lucite first to prove it's authenticity is a very, very sad solution.

gliderpilotuk
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posted 11-15-2007 08:17 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for gliderpilotuk   Click Here to Email gliderpilotuk     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by 1202 Alarm:
As far as I know, Romans or Greeks coins, as fragile as they are, are never encased in Lucite.
As a former archaeologist I agree that I've never seen a lucite encased Roman coin, despite certain of them being pretty common and in wide public ownership. I bet there are some though.

In any case, IMO certain SPACE-related fragile items (which is what we are talking about), such as kapton foil or flakes of heatshield probably are best preserved by encapsulation and suitable labeling. It's all about personal preference.

mjanovec
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posted 11-15-2007 11:26 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for mjanovec   Click Here to Email mjanovec     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by 1202 Alarm:
As far as I know, Romans or Greeks coins, as fragile as they are, are never encased in Lucite. The collectors or museum curators would laugh or be terrified just at the idea.
Keep in mind that many of the lucites out there with hardware and heat shield fragments were created back in the 1960s. Nobody was equating these bits of material to Roman coins at the time, but instead were simply looking for a way to give a souvenir of the missions to people who participated in those programs. Instead of handing someone a piece of heat shield, they encased it in lucite to make a presentation that could be displayed or used as a paperweight.

What we now think of as historical artifacts were more or less considered souvenirs then.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 11-15-2007 11:33 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by mjanovec:
What we now think of as historical artifacts were more or less considered souvenirs then.
Exactly, as well as awards. While we may see the beauty today in a charred chunk of heat shield by itself, the Lucite went a long way toward making a spent ablative into a presentation worthy of display on a desk or bookshelf.

SRB
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posted 11-16-2007 02:04 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for SRB   Click Here to Email SRB     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I know the conventional wisdom is that these pieces of heatshield in Lucite were flown on the mission named in the Lucite. Since there are various types of pieces from the heatshield and forms of Lucite, I am speaking generally, but how do we know these pieces were from the heatshield on the CM of the mission listed rather than from, say, heatshield tests? In general, when looking at the heatshields on Apollo CMs on display in museums, I could never find chunks of the heatshields missing. If pieces of the heatshield were used for Lucites or other souvenirs, wouldn't that be noticeable? On the other hand, it is pretty easy to spot where the plugs were dug out of the CM heatshields. Wouldn't chunks taken from the heatshield be even more noticeable? Furthermore, the Lucites don't say the pieces in them were flown; they just identify the mission. The Lucites are a nice souvenir of the mission even if the pieces in them are not flown. But, how do we know if the pieces in the Lucites are or are not flown?

LCDR Scott Schneeweis
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posted 11-16-2007 09:03 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for LCDR Scott Schneeweis   Click Here to Email LCDR Scott Schneeweis     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by SRB:
But, how do we know if the pieces in the Lucites are or are not flown?
Ground test facilities during the 60's were not capable of replicating the reentry enthalpy needed to impart the deep ablation displayed in these heat shield specimens.

SRB
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posted 11-16-2007 10:16 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for SRB   Click Here to Email SRB     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
OK, I'm convinced by Scott that the heatshield speciments were all flown. But, on what flights? There were several boilerplate and production CMs flown on unmanned missions before Apollo 7. Could the heatshields on those CMs have been used in the Lucites instead of the heatshields from the CMs on the later flights since the manned CMs would be preserved and put on display? How big a hole would have to have been made in a heatshield to make all the Lucites? If each piece of heatshield was one inch wide by one-half inch deep (and anywhere from two to three inches in length), and if 100 Lucites were made by all the contractors (a pretty low number), that would put of hole in the heatshild of at least five inches by ten inches. That would be quite noticeable. Anyone's thoughts on these questions would be appreciated.

FFrench
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posted 11-16-2007 10:42 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for FFrench     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by SRB: In general, when looking at the heatshields on Apollo CMs on display in museums, I could never find chunks of the heatshields missing. If pieces of the heatshield were used for Lucites or other souvenirs, wouldn't that be noticeable?

If you have a look at the last photo on this page, the heatshield of a spacecraft like Apollo 9 seems to have a large number of irregularly-spaced circles of different sizes. Not sure if this is post-flight sampling of parts of the heatshield.

gliderpilotuk
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posted 11-17-2007 06:37 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for gliderpilotuk   Click Here to Email gliderpilotuk     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Possibly. Ray is the expert on this stuff. I think he told me there were 36 electrical connector plugs on the base, and there are a lot more holes than that here.

lunareagle
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posted 11-17-2007 11:30 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for lunareagle   Click Here to Email lunareagle     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Do I dare ask if it is possible to safely remove an artifact from lucite encapsulation? Can any experts advise?

Robert Pearlman
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posted 11-17-2007 11:45 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by FFrench:
...the heatshield of a spacecraft like Apollo 9 seems to have a large number of irregularly-spaced circles of different sizes.
It was always my (mistaken?) understanding that NAA plugged the holes they created taking core samples and segments from the heatshield before returning the spacecraft postflight to NASA and ultimately the Smithsonian, hence the circular cuts. Remember: many of the samples that were later encased in Lucite were first cut from the spacecraft for study, so it wasn't like NASA or NAA was only slicing into the capsules for souvenirs sake.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 11-17-2007 11:48 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by lunareagle:
Do I dare ask if it is possible to safely remove an artifact from lucite encapsulation?
It depends largely on the item and its tolerance to heat. I suspect that, for example, the nuts and bolts from the Liberty Bell 7 would survive the necessary temperatures to melt the surrounding Lucite. Thinner metal shavings, such as kapton, might not fair as well.

LCDR Scott Schneeweis
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posted 11-17-2007 12:26 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for LCDR Scott Schneeweis   Click Here to Email LCDR Scott Schneeweis     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Placing the lucite in a solvent like ethyl acetate or freezing the lucite to embrittlement and striking with hammer can also be effective depending on the type of artifact encapsulated

mercsim
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posted 11-18-2007 10:05 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for mercsim   Click Here to Email mercsim     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I have a relay from behind the instrument panel of LB7. It really looks good in the Lucite and can be safely handled. If it were not in the Lucite, it would probably continue to corrode and every touch could potentially rub the markings off or break the remaining wires attached to it.

Its a great way to preserve an artifact while allowing close inspections and drooling....

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