Skip to main content

National Air and Space Museum (NASM)

Christopher U. Browne, Acting Director

The National Air and Space Museum has the largest collection of historic aircraft and spacecraft in the world. The Museum’s goal is to explore and present the history, science, technology, and social impact of aeronautics and spaceflight and to investigate and exhibit the nature of the universe and our environment. The Museum’s Department of Collections and Research entails five divisions that present varied opportunities for research and study. The Departments of Aeronautics and Space History conduct studies on the origin and development of flight through the atmosphere and in space, while the Museum’s Center for Earth and Planetary Studies carries out programs of basic research in planetary and terrestrial geosciences and remote sensing.

The Museum’s preservation and restoration efforts occur at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia. The Museum’s collection of nearly 70,000 artifacts includes over 390 aircraft and more than 250 rockets, spacecraft, and guided missiles. The collection also includes engines, propellers, instruments and avionics equipment, flight clothing and spacesuits, personal equipment, medals and awards, and a broad range of cultural items. The Museum’s art collection exceeds 4,000 pieces. Opportunities for hands-on research of the Museum’s collections should be proposed well in advance of applications because of the heavy schedule of the Collections Division.

The Archives Division contains a wide range of visual and textual materials, many emphasizing the technical aspects of aircraft and spacecraft. The archival collection contains approximately 17,000 cubic feet of material, including an estimated two million photographs, more than 20,000 film and video titles and over 600 collections of personal and professional and corporate records.  Descriptions of over 3,000 of the various collections are available at http://www.SIRIS.si.edu/. A major attribute of these collections is their visual representation of aircraft and spacecraft through photographs and technical drawings. The archives also hold many technical manuals that document the design, construction, and performance of aircraft and spacecraft and the engines that powered them. The National Air and Space Museum Technical Files contain 1,920 cubic feet of aviation and space-related materials organized by subject in twenty-two series. Materials include photographs, press releases, clippings, correspondence, reports, brochures, and other documentation of individuals, organizations, events, and objects. Finding aids to some collections are available athttp://www.nasm.edu/nasm/arch.

Historical research in the Museum is aided both by these internal resources as well as the proximity to holdings and expertise in the Washington area. The Museum has programs of scholarly collaboration with major universities and government labs including Cambridge, Cornell, Johns Hopkins, Oxford, Northwestern University, University of Virginia, and University of Pittsburgh. Museum professionals serve as committee members for scientists and historians working on advanced degrees at various universities.

Scientific research in terrestrial and planetary geology and geophysics is aided by collections of hard copy and digital planetary data housed in the Center for Earth and Planetary Studies. Included in the collections are more than 200,000 Gemini, Apollo, Skylab, Apollo-Soyuz and space shuttle prints and transparencies of Earth, selected Landsat images and digital data (primarily for Earth’s desert regions), and complete sets of Ranger through Apollo images and photographs of the Moon. Images of the planets and their moons are available as prints, negatives and digital files. The Center has a variety of computers, and scanning and digitizing equipment, for use in research.

The Museum’s library contains an extensive collection of books, periodicals, rare materials, and microforms in the following subjects: the history of aviation and spaceflight; aeronautics and astronautics; Earth and planetary studies; and astronomy. Access to a variety of electronic information sources is also available in the library at http://www.SIRIS.si.edu/. The library is a branch of the Smithsonian Institution Libraries.

Research is fundamental and integral to all of the work of the National Air and Space Museum. The staff works closely with many professional aviation, scientific, and historical societies, and maintains close research associations with other related museums, both in this country and abroad. In addition to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum Fellowships, the National Air and Space Museum provides research opportunities in history, science, and art that include fellowships, internships, a publications grant, and appointments as visiting scholars. Scholars are encouraged to apply for these opportunities:

  • Charles A. Lindbergh Chair of Aerospace History
  • Daniel and Florence Guggenheim Fellowship
  • A. Verville Fellowship
  • Earth and Planetary Science Fellowship
  • National Air and Space Museum Aviation/Space Writers Award
  • Internships

Aeronautics Division

The Aeronautics Department is responsible for the historical research and collecting activities of the National Air and Space Museum related to all aspects of flight in the atmosphere. The goal of the department is to preserve, document, and interpret the history of aeronautical technology within a broad and appropriate political, economic, and social context. As part of this responsibility, the department acquires, documents, and maintains a collection of historically significant artifacts for public exhibition, study, and reference. Staff members conduct historical research leading toward scholarly and popular publications, exhibitions, lectures, seminars, and other forms of public presentation. Staff members also respond to a broad range of requests from the public on matters related to the history of aeronautics. 

Research Staff

Cochrane, Dorothy S., Curator, General Aviation. B.A. (1972) Ithaca College; M.Ed. (1975) Lehigh University. Research specialties: General aviation, aerial photography, history of women in aviation. Contact: CochraneD@si.edu

Connor, Roger, Museum Specialist, Instruments and Vertical Flight. B.S. (1993) Virginia Tech; M.A. (2002) George Washington University; M.A. (2010) George Mason University; Ph.D. Candidate (current) George Mason University. Research specialties: Rotary-wing and V/STOL aviation, Unmanned Aerial Systems, Army ground force aviation, ground effect vehicles, air navigation, aircraft instrumentation, bombsights, gun sights, avionics and flight management systems, ground support equipment, air traffic control, radar and electronic warfare, airports and infrastructure. Contact: ConnorR@si.edu

Kinney, Jeremy R., Associate Director, Air Racing, Aircraft Propulsion, and American Military Aviation, 1919-1945. B.A. (1994) Greensboro College; M.A. (1998), Ph.D. (2003) Auburn University. Research specialties: Air racing and Motorsports; Aircraft Propulsion; Interwar and World War II Military Aviation; Aircraft Design, Technology, and Manufacturing; History of Technology; Twentieth Century United States. Contact: KinneyJ@si.edu

Lee, Russell E., Chair and Curator of Sport Aviation and All-Wing Aircraft. B.S. (1981) Southwest Texas State University; M.S. (1992) George Mason University. Research specialties: Sport aviation (includes glider, ultralight, and amateur-built aircraft), tailless and semi-tailless aircraft, development of composite structures in sport aircraft, influence of weather knowledge on sport of soaring flight. Contact: LeeRE@si.edu

Spencer, Alex M., Curator. B.A. (1987), M.A. (1990) Pennsylvania State University; Ph.D. (2008) Auburn University. Research specialties: British and Commonwealth military aviation, military flight clothing, aviation trophies and awards. Contact: SpencerAM@si.edu

Van Der Linden, F. Robert, Curator of Air Transportation, Special Purpose Aircraft. B.A. (1977) University of Denver; M.A. (1981), Ph.D. (1997) George Washington University. Research specialties: U.S. commercial aviation, interwar military and naval aviation, special purpose aircraft. Contact: VanderLindenB@si.edu

Affiliated Research Staff

Moore, Christopher, Museum Specialist, Model Aircraft and Armament-Ordnance. B.A. (1983) University of California, San Diego; M.A. (1997) George Mason University. Research specialties: Collections management. Contact: MooreC@si.edu

Paone, Thomas, Museum Specialist, Digital Assets Management. B.A. (2007) Gettysburg College; M.A. (2010) George Mason University. Research specialties: Digital assets, Civil War ballooning. Contact: PaoneT@si.edu

Russo, Carolyn J., Museum Specialist, Art Collection. B.F.A. (1988) Massachusetts College of Art, Boston, MA.  Research specialties: Aviation and space related fine art and documentary photography. Contact: RussoC@si.edu

 

Center for Earth and Planetary Studies

The Center for Earth and Planetary Studies (CEPS) is a scientific research unit of the National Air and Space Museum. The Center’s staff is actively involved in planetary and terrestrial geologic and geophysical research using remote sensing data obtained by Earth orbiting satellites, manned and unmanned space missions, and field studies.  Several members of the research staff participate on the science teams for current and future missions to Mars, including Mars Express, Mars Exploration Rovers, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, the MESSENGER mission to Mercury, and the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity Rover. Staff members are also actively involved in preparations for future missions to the Moon, the rocky inner planets, and the outer solar system.

Research activities include the geologic evolution of planetary surfaces, geologic mapping, comparative studies of volcanic and tectonic landforms on the Earth and other terrestrial planets, and geomorphology and surface dynamics in arid and semi-arid regions of the Earth.

The Center houses a NASA-supported Regional Planetary Image Facility that includes digital images and photographs of the Earth, Moon, and other planets and their satellites, as well as cartographic products generated from these images. This facility serves the research needs of the Center’s staff and ensures that images and other planetary mission data are accessible to the larger community of investigators and interested public in the mid-Atlantic and southeastern regions of the United States.

Scientific investigations using digital images and other digital data are supported by a variety of software packages, including ISIS, PICS, PCI, and ARC/INFO. Online search capabilities of terrestrial and planetary databases are also available.

Research Staff

Campbell, Bruce A., Chair and Geophysicist, Center for Earth and Planetary Studies. B.S. (1986) Texas A&M University, Ph.D. (1991) University of Hawaii. Research specialties: Geophysical applications of imaging radar data, radar backscatter, volcanism, Venus geologic mapping, radar sounding of Mars. Contact: CampbellB@si.edu

Craddock, Robert A., Geologist, Center for Earth and Planetary Studies. B.S. (1985) University of Georgia; M.S. (1987) Arizona State University; Ph.D. (1999) University of Virginia. Research specialties: Mars geology; lunar geology; fluvial processes; geomorphic analyses and quantitative modeling. Contact: CraddockB@si.edu

Grant, John A., Geologist, Center for Earth and Planetary Studies. B.A. (1982) State University of New York; M.S. (1985) University of Rhode Island; Ph.D. (1990) Brown University. Research specialties: Planetary geology and process geomorphology. Contact: GrantJ@si.edu

Irwin III, Rossman P., Geologist, Center for Earth and Planetary Studies. B.A. (1997) Virginia Tech; M.S. (2000) University of Virginia; Ph.D. (2005) University of Virginia. Research specialties: fluvial and arid zone geomorphology, paleohydrology, planetary resurfacing. Contact: IrwinR@si.edu

Watters, Thomas R., Senior Scientist, Center for Earth and Planetary Studies. B.A. (1977) West Chester University; M.A. (1979) Bryn Mawr College; Ph.D. (1985) George Washington University. Research specialties: Structure/tectonics; planetary geology; tectonophysics and remote sensing. Contact: WattersT@si.edu

Zimbelman, James R., Geologist, Center for Earth and Planetary Studies. B.A. (1976) Northwest Nazarene College; M.S. (1978) University of California, Los Angeles; Ph.D. (1984) Arizona State University. Research specialties: Planetary geology and volcanology; arid land geomorphology; paleo-pluvial geology; remote sensing. Contact: ZimbelmanJ@si.edu

Affiliated Research Staff

Strain, Priscilla L., Program Manager, Center for Earth and Planetary Studies. B.A. (1974) Smith College. Research specialties: Remote sensing; lunar geology. Contact: StrainP@si.edu

Space History Department

The Space History Department is the focal point for the space-related historical research, collecting, and exhibit work of the Museum. Curators and specialists within the Department research and publish; engage in public outreach through exhibitions, lectures, and other means; and collect and manage the rocket, space, and science artifacts in the Museum’s National Collection. The Department’s work embodies the Museum’s mission to preserve, understand, and communicate the history of rocketry and space exploration as part of the larger story of United States and world history. As a museum, our special strength is documenting this history through our artifacts. The Museum possesses an unparalleled collection that preserves many facets of rocketry and space exploration undertaken by the United States and, to a lesser degree, other countries. Our artifacts cover programs and technologies created for human spaceflight, rocketry and missiles, computers and avionics, commercial satellites, military space, space sciences, ground- and space-based astronomy, solar system exploration, foreign space programs, and social/cultural artifacts related to people, programs, and public interest in space. These artifacts are on display in a number of venues: the Museum on the National Mall, at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, and, through the active loan program, at museums around the nation and the world.

Using the Museum’s collections, as well as archival and bibliographic sources, the Department’s historians investigate the disciplines that use the vantage point of space, including astronomy, space physics, atmospheric sciences, communications, and life sciences, and also the means by which humans have probed or explored space, including rockets, launch vehicles, spacecraft, spacesuits, cameras, and all manner of instruments and crew equipment. Its research encompasses historical studies of space science and exploration, as well as technical surveys of space disciplines. In addition, the Department pursues historical studies of the social and cultural, economic and political aspects of spaceflight and space exploration.

Research Staff

Ceruzzi, Paul E., Curator, Aerospace Computing and Electronics. B.A. (1970) Yale University; Ph.D. (1981) University of Kansas. Research specialties: Aerospace electronics, computing, microelectronics, missile guidance & control.

Collins, Martin J., Curator, Civilian Applications Satellites. B.G.S. (1977) University of Michigan; M.A. (1985), M.L.S. (1985), Ph.D. (1998) University of Maryland. Research specialties: History of post-World War II science and technology; history and culture of communications satellites; globalization; oral history and archives. Contact: CeruzziP@si.edu

David, James E., Curator, National Security Space and Rocket Models. B.A. (1973) Occidental College; M.A. (1990) Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. Research specialties: Intelligence programs and space; communications intelligence organization and policies; Federal records management; classification and declassification of federal records, location and accessibility of agency, White House, and Congressional records. Contact: DavidJJ@si.edu

DeVorkin, David H., Senior Curator, History of Astronomy and the Space Sciences. B.A. (1966) University of California, Los Angeles; M.S. (1968) San Diego State University; M.Phil. (1970) Yale University; Ph.D. (1978) University of Leicester. Research specialties: History of modern astrophysics; history of astronomy and the space sciences; oral history and biography. Contact: DeVorkinD@si.edu

Lassman, Thomas C., Curator, Rockets and Missiles Since 1946. B.A. (1991) Washington University; M.A. (1997), Ph.D. (2001) Johns Hopkins University. Research specialties: American institutional history; history of science and technology during the Cold War; history of American industrial research. Contact: LassmanT@si.edu

Levasseur, Jennifer Kay, Museum Specialist. B.A. (1999) University of Michigan; M.A. (2002) George Washington University; Ph.D. (2014) George Mason University. Research specialties: NASA photography program and cameras; astronaut equipment and extravehicular activity; material culture and memory; visual culture. Contact: SkomerJ@si.edu

Lewis, Cathleen S., Curator, International Space Programs and U.S. Spacesuits and Inflight Clothing. B.A. (1980), M.A. (1983) Yale University; Ph.D. (2008) George Washington University. Research specialties: History of Russian and Soviet space programs; International cooperation in space; History of spacesuits; blacks in aviation and spaceflight; biological sciences in space. Contact: LewisCS@si.edu

Neal, Valerie, Chair and Curator, Space Shuttle and Space Station History. B.A. (1971) Texas Christian University; M.A. (1973) University of Southern California; Ph.D. (1979) University of Minnesota. Research specialties: Shuttle-era human spaceflight (Space Shuttle, Spacelab, Space Station); Spacelab science missions; IMAX space films; extravehicular activity; Shuttle-era astronaut corps and women astronauts. Contact: NealV@si.edu

Needell, Allan A., Curator, Apollo, Skylab, Apollo-Soyuz Programs. B.A. (1972) Cornell University; M.A. (1974), Ph.D. (1980) Yale University. Research specialties: History of modern physical sciences and the organization of American science; history of space exploration; Apollo spacecraft and associated artifacts. Contact: NeedellA@si.edu

Neufeld, Michael J., Senior Curator, Early Rocketry and Mercury/Gemini programs. B.A. (1974) University of Calgary; M.A. (1976) University of British Columbia; M.A. (1980), Ph.D. (1984) Johns Hopkins University. Research specialties: German rocketry and aeronautics; early rocket development; U.S. space and guided-missile history; World War II, the Holocaust, and strategic bombing. Contact: NeufeldM@si.edu

Weitekamp, Margaret A., Curator, Social and Cultural Dimensions of Spaceflight. B.A. (1993) University of Pittsburgh; M.A. (1996), Ph.D. (2001) Cornell University. Research specialties: Space exploration in popular culture; space memorabilia and ephemera; space science fiction memorabilia, merchandise, and props; space-themed toys; women in early U.S. space program. Contact: WeitekampM@si.edu

Ramsey Room, National Air and Space Museum Branch, Smithsonian Institution Libraries

Named in honor of Admiral DeWitt Clinton Ramsey, an early naval aviator, this room contains rare library materials concerning the history of aviation and spaceflight. The William Burden collection of early ballooning works and the Bella Landauer Collection of aeronautical sheet music are housed in this room along with a large number of big-little books from the 1930s, the Tom Swift series, other children’s books, and works by Jules Verne. In addition, the Ramsey Room contains a large number of first editions, many of them autographed by pioneers of flight. The William Upcott scrapbook with original letters written by the Montgolfier brothers in the 1870s also contains original prints and rare newspaper clippings collected by Upcott, a 19th-century British book dealer, and the 1836 Moon Hoax portfolio documents the hoax perpetrated by the New York Sun reporter R. A. Locke. The Ramsey Room is located within the Branch Library and adjacent to the Archives Division. The Smithsonian Institution Libraries encourages independent research projects by Smithsonian fellows and short-term visitors.

Back to Top