National Air and Space Museum offers rare, behind-the-scenes opportunity

The Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum will celebrate the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center’s 10th anniversary with an open house Saturday, Jan. 25. For one day only, the museum will give visitors a rare, behind-the-scenes look into spaces usually inaccessible to the public.

The daylong event will also include demonstrations and hands-on activities for all ages, as well as presentations on how the museum preserves, cares for and displays its collection.

A unique feature of the center is that visitors can watch collections specialists at work from a mezzanine above the restoration hangar, officials note.

B29During the open house, visitors will be able to walk through this area and get an intimate view of the restoration work being done, as well as:

  • Meet curators, conservators, archivists and other specialists, and learn how they care for objects in the museum’s collection
  • Learn how the aircraft are hung for display in the Boeing Aviation Hangar
  • Meet shuttle astronaut Stephen Robinson at Discovery in the Space Hangar
  • See how the most fragile artifacts are stored and cared for
  • Peek into the Conservation Lab and hear from conservators about projects they are working on
  • Get tips for photographing objects in the museum from a staff photographer
  • Children can build their own plane and listen to story time

Admission to the museum and open house is free; parking is $15.

SpaceShuttleDiscoverySince it opened in conjunction with the nation’s Centennial of Flight in 2003, the center has expanded in all areas, most notably because of a new wing devoted to collections care.

The new section contains several state-of-the-art storage facilities for entire collections, such as spacesuits and works of art, as well as a conservation lab and processing units, and the Mary Baker Engen Restoration Hangar, a 48,000-square-foot facility large enough to house seven aircraft at the same time.

The museum’s archival research facility, containing millions of documents, photographs, and film and video collections, is also at the center.

The number of major artifacts on display, arranged in thematic sections following a “displayed storage” design scheme, has risen from 348 in 2003 to 3,250 today.

The National Air and Space Museum building on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., is located at Sixth Street and Independence Avenue S.W. The museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center is located in Chantilly, Va., near Washington Dulles International Airport. Attendance at both buildings combined was 8 million in 2012, making it the most visited museum in America. Both buildings are open from 10 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. every day (closed Dec. 25).


  1. Nick Jones says

    I attended the Associates Program they offered in the 1980s at the Silver Hill restoration facility and found the experience invaluable. It would be great if they could do this again. This sounds like its just touches on this experience. Very worthwhile.

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