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Author Topic:   The 'old' National Air and Space Museum

Posts: 1494
From: Greensboro, NC USA
Registered: Feb 2006

posted 10-14-2008 07:39 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ilbasso   Click Here to Email ilbasso     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Anyone remember the days when the National Air and Space Museum was housed in the Smithsonian's Arts and Industries Building and the quonset hut to the west of the building?

I loved hanging out in the quonset hut when I was a teenager. They had a Gemini docking simulator where you could push a few computer interface buttons and watch a model of a Gemini and Agena dock.

I was a summer tourguide at the NASM in 1971 and 1972 when I was in high school. I recently came across some of my photos from back then and wanted to share them with you. It's amazing how different the vehicles look in this 100+ year old building.

But perhaps my favorite photo from those days was from the NASM's director.


Posts: 25
From: Osan, Repbulic of Korea
Registered: Oct 2008

posted 10-18-2008 09:34 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for btguest   Click Here to Email btguest     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Looking closely at the LM picture, you can see a number of floor fans...I guess they didn't have central HVAC yet. I wonder if that deteriorated any of the artifacts.

And what a great X-15 picture! Minus the step ladder against the wall, it is an awesome photo. I realy like the way that the curves contrast with the tile pattern on the floor. Its neat to see an art-deco looking airplane (although it came about 10 years after the art deco movement peaked) housed in this great victorian Industrial building. Two examples of high technology from different time periods brought together.

Or maybe I'm just reading into it too much! The A&I building was probably the only building on the Mall that had the room to house the collection...


Posts: 1319
From: Centreville, VA, USA
Registered: Feb 2007

posted 10-19-2008 09:02 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for stsmithva   Click Here to Email stsmithva     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thank you for posting those photos. I love seeing shots like that, since for a year right out of college I worked at Smithsonian security's HQ in the upper level of the A&I Building, writing policies and procedures.

While I could describe in detail here how strange it was for a clueless kid to be telling 700 security officers when they were and weren't allowed to shoot someone, I'll just say that the A&I Building is one of my favorites in Washington. I'm sure lots of knowledgeable architects find it a bizarre and hideous pile, but to me it's a fun wacky uncle of a building. It's been undergoing renovations and will hopefully someday be put to good use. Nice to see and hear how much people have enjoyed it in the past.


P.S. I'm kicking myself for not using my time at SI to get a closer, backstage look at air and space exhibits. I did go up to the top of the Castle tower, where the rail is knee-high and therefore being up there is like floating over the center of the Mall. (Some of the builders scratched their initials and "1855" up there.) Oh, and I once stumbled upon Alexander Graham Bell's personal library sitting on a dozen shelves, and while flipping through the books found one paper or card after another with his writing on them- notes for speeches, shopping lists, a couple of jokes, etc. Apparently no one had looked through the books since he died, since the people responsible for the library were surprised when I showed them these papers.


Posts: 241
Registered: Jan 2008

posted 10-19-2008 12:45 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for APG85     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Wow! Those are some great old pictures. Back in those days, Charles Lindbergh use to occasionally slip into the building to view his plane, The Spirit of St. Louis. He would view it quietly from behind the case housing the first ladies dresses to avoid being noticed...


Posts: 1494
From: Greensboro, NC USA
Registered: Feb 2006

posted 10-19-2008 03:05 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ilbasso   Click Here to Email ilbasso     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I did a lot of exploring around the A&I building and the Castle when I wasn't taking tour groups around. I spent a lot of time in the A&I library, and once I snuck up there to watch Al Worden's spacewalk on their small portable black and white TV...and Michael Collins came into the library and watched it with me.

Under the Castle, I found an iron gated and chained tunnel entrance which I was told went under the Mall to the National History museum.

One of the things I like about the Udvar-Hazy center is that a lot of my "old friends" from the A&I building are back on display again after 30 years, like Langley's Aerodrome and the Hawker Hurricane.


Posts: 89
From: Merritt Island, FL
Registered: Feb 2008

posted 10-22-2008 06:19 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for AFGAS   Click Here to Email AFGAS     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
With Jonathan's permission, I've posted his images on the Field Guide. If anybody else has old pictures showing spacecraft or boosters in previous display locations, please let me know. And thanks, Jonathan!


Posts: 1494
From: Greensboro, NC USA
Registered: Feb 2006

posted 10-23-2008 03:01 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ilbasso   Click Here to Email ilbasso     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Glad to help, Jim!

I took a look at your updated site and was interested to compare the aft view of X-15-1 from my 1971 to your present-day pictures. There is a hole or vent at the 2 o'clock position in my picture, which I noticed is conspicuously covered by a metal plate on the ship as it hangs in the NASM now.

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