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What's New from the Curator: Winter 2009

  • Published
  • By Terry Aitken, Senior Curator
  • National Museum of the U.S. Air Force
With the 60th anniversary of the Korean War now just months away, we are really busy pressing forward with the new Korean War Gallery. So far, we have most of the aircraft moved into position with only a few more "tweeks" to be accomplished. These will be accomplished after the electrical contractors are through with their work. As part of the gallery upgrades we have installed new electrical service to manage our much expanded exhibit lighting and display support requirements.

One of the very first aircraft presented in the gallery is, appropriately, our F-80C "Shooting Star" which is an actual combat veteran from Korea having served with the 8th Fighter Bomber Wing during the very early days of the war. Speaking of aircraft, our Republic F-84E "Thunderjet" has been taken temporarily off exhibit and is now in restoration. The aircraft is being returned to a natural metal finish and will be provided with a new color/ marking/insignia package which fits ideally into our Korean War historical narrative.

Behind the scenes, our Exhibits Division is in full production of new display panels and cases as well as graphics and the collection division is assembling quite an impressive array of artifacts, many of which have not been previously on display. Given the successes of our new audio visual and "touch-screens" in the Warrior Airmen and 100 Missions North exhibits, we are making expanded usage of these new technologies in the gallery. These will provide quick and dynamic information on demand from a rich content library to suit the needs and interests of the visitors.

Another item of technology that is being well applied in the development and design of the gallery are computer generated virtual representations.
These provide a high definition, three dimensional representation of major portions of the gallery. Given the ability to "virtually" view the area from almost any height or angle, it provides us a vastly improved planning and design tool. We can now stand in the gallery and get a visitor point of view to an exhibit long before they are installed. While most designs are not quite finalized, I've included a random view or two of notional designs that we are working with to share with you.

While capturing certain data and images takes a bit of time, our use of standardized wall panels, exhibit cases, railing, etc. makes for great savings over the old tedium of drawings or the manufacturing of three dimensional scale models. With the computer generated images we also have the ability to swiftly make design changes and alterations without the expenditure of significant man hours. For someone such as me that still finds mastering all of the buttons and features on a remote control a challenge, all of this is nothing short of being a miracle.

We are truly looking forward to the completion of the Korean War Gallery, especially as it honors the veterans of that war. While it has been many times referred to as the "Forgotten War," it certainly is not and will not be forgotten here at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. It will be a special focus here at the museum through the full anniversary period of 2013 with exhibits continuing to be enhanced and expanded.

There are many ways that you can participate in this celebration. If you are an Air Force veteran of the war, perhaps you would like to share objects and images to help support our new exhibitry? It is not too late to have items included. If you are a member of a Korean War veteran's organization, schedule a reunion here at the museum so we can provide a special recognition to your accomplishments. Finally, perhaps you'd like to plan your first, or next visit, here at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. If you have not been one of our 1.3 million annual visitors, it's time to come. If you've been a past visitor, it's time to come back and see the many changes and improvements that have been made.

Note: This article originally appeared in the Fall 2009 issue of Friends Journal. To receive the Journal and other benefits, become a member of the Air Force Museum Foundation.