After undergoing a 6-month-long remodel the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum is once again open to the public.
The preservation of American history is an important job. And no one does it better than the museum curators at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C. Fans of the impressive collection housed there will be thrilled with the news that one of the buildings is finally reopening.
The Smithsonian Air and Space Museum officially reopened to the public today after undergoing a lengthy remodel. It got built in the 1970s, but the tight budget prevented the construction of a long-lasting building. So, as the building aged, so did the electrical system and the air conditioning.
When the outside started to buckle, museum leadership decided it needed a complete overhaul. One of the senior curators, Michael Neufeld, told outlet DCist/WAMU, “So, we really needed to replace everything. And, so, we decided at that point basically to gut the building and rebuild it completely.”
That project began in the west wing nearly four years ago. Smithsonian opened portions of Air and Space briefly multiple times throughout the pandemic. They closed it completely in March to finalize some construction projects.
With the news of the west wing reopening today, the rest of the museum is next up for a refresh. One exhibit, the “Milestones of Flight”, has started its remodel already. Its reopening will open in 2024.
Then comes the east wing, which Smithsonian leadership hopes to complete by 2025. It also has a brand new building planned called the Bezos Learning Center. And they hope to open those doors sometime in 2026.
In total, the project will cost nearly $1 billion upon completion. That’s 10% higher than the estimate and most likely due to the pandemic and subsequent supply chain woes. The Smithsonian Air and Space Museum overhaul will also take nearly seven and a half years to complete.
But, the good news is that the reopening brought with it a load of new exhibits. The media received a sneak preview the day before the public opening. During the press briefing, Christopher Browne, the museum director, explained the reasoning behind the new additions.
He said, “In many cases, the stories have always been there but not told. We want to make sure that people can, particularly young learners, connect, personalize, and see themselves in that cockpit or in that capsule and know that’s possible.” And it certainly sounds like the new exhibits will do just that.
Many of the additions help tell the full story. Curators incorporated a behind-the-scenes look into what made things like walking on the moon possible. One example is a display near Neil Armstrong’s suit that showcases the work behind the suit.
A seemingly ordinary sewing machine accompanies the story of Dover, Delaware seamstresses who sewed spacesuits for the astronauts. Their work helped ensure those who took “one giant leap for mankind” were thoroughly protected.
Visitors to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum can also expect to see perennial favorites like Amelia Earhart’s plan and the 1903 Wright flyer. But be sure to schedule your visit in advance. Since they expect a high volume of visitors, museum leadership instituted a new timed-entry system.