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Drawing, Felt Tip Pen on Paper

National Air and Space Museum
Ink drawing of Apollo escape pod with walkway leading to it.

The spring of 1962 was a busy time for the men and women of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. On February 20, John H. Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth. For the first time since the launch of Sputnik 1 on October 4, 1957, the U.S. was positioned to match and exceed Soviet achievements in space. NASA was an agency with a mission -- to meet President John F. Kennedy's challenge of sending human beings to the moon and returning them safely to earth by the end of the decade. Within a year, three more Mercury astronauts would fly into orbit. Plans were falling into place for a follow-on series of two-man Gemini missions that would set the stage for the Apollo voyages to the moon.

In early March 1962, artist Bruce Stevenson brought his large portrait of Alan Shepard, the first American to fly in space, to NASA headquarters.(1) James E. Webb, the administrator of NASA, assumed that the artist was interested in painting a similar portrait of all seven of the Mercury astronauts. Instead, Webb voiced his preference for a group portrait that would emphasize "…the team effort and the togetherness that has characterized the first group of astronauts to be trained by this nation." More important, the episode convinced the administrator that "…we should consider in a deliberate way just what NASA should do in the field of fine arts to commemorate the …historic events" of the American space program.(2)

In addition to portraits, Webb wanted to encourage artists to capture the excitement and deeper meaning of space flight. He imagined "a nighttime scene showing the great amount of activity involved in the preparation of and countdown for launching," as well as paintings that portrayed activities in space. "The important thing," he concluded, "is to develop a policy on how we intend to treat this matter now and in the next several years and then to get down to the specifics of how we intend to implement this policy…." The first step, he suggested, was to consult with experts in the field, including the director of the National Gallery of Art, and the members of the Fine Arts Commission, the arbiters of architectural and artistic taste who passed judgment on the appearance of official buildings and monuments in the nation's capital.

Webb's memo of March 16, 1962 was the birth certificate of the NASA art program. Shelby Thompson, the director of the agency's Office of Educational Programs and Services, assigned James Dean, a young artist working as a special assistant in his office, to the project. On June 19, 1962 Thompson met with the Fine Arts Commission, requesting advice as to how "…NASA should develop a basis for use of paintings and sculptures to depict significant historical events and other activities in our program."(3)

David E. Finley, the chairman and former director of the National Gallery of Art, applauded the idea, and suggested that the agency should study the experience of the U.S. Air Force, which had amassed some 800 paintings since establishing an art program in 1954. He also introduced Thompson to Hereward Lester Cooke, curator of paintings at the National Gallery of Art.

An imposing bear of a man standing over six feet tall, Lester Cooke was a graduate of Yale and Oxford, with a Princeton PhD. The son of a physics professor and a veteran of the U.S. Army Air Forces, he was both fascinated by science and felt a personal connection to flight. On a professional level, Cooke had directed American participation in international art competitions and produced articles and illustrations for the National Geographic Magazine. He jumped at the chance to advise NASA on its art program.

While initially cautious with regard to the time the project might require of one of his chief curators, John Walker, director of the National Gallery, quickly became one of the most vocal supporters of the NASA art initiative. Certain that "the present space exploration effort by the United States will probably rank among the more important events in the history of mankind," Walker believed that "every possible method of documentation …be used." Artists should be expected "…not only to record the physical appearance of the strange new world which space technology is creating, but to edit, select and probe for the inner meaning and emotional impact of events which may change the destiny of our race." He urged quick action so that "the full flavor of the achievement …not be lost," and hoped that "the past held captive" in any paintings resulting from the effort "will prove to future generations that America produced not only scientists and engineers capable of shaping the destiny of our age, but also artists worthy to keep them company."(4)

Gordon Cooper, the last Mercury astronaut to fly, was scheduled to ride an Atlas rocket into orbit on May 15, 1963. That event would provide the ideal occasion for a test run of the plan Cooke and Dean evolved to launch the art program. In mid-February, Cooke provided Thompson with a list of the artists who should be invited to travel to Cape Canaveral to record their impressions of the event. Andrew Wyeth, whom the curator identified as "the top artist in the U.S. today," headed the list. When the time came, however, Andrew Wyeth did not go to the Cape for the Cooper launch, but his son Jamie would participate in the program during the Gemini and Apollo years.

The list of invited artists also included Peter Hurd, Andrew Wyeth's brother-in-law, who had served as a wartime artist with the Army Air Force; George Weymouth, whom Wyeth regarded as "the best of his pupils"; and John McCoy, another Wyeth associate. Cooke regarded the next man on the list, Robert McCall, who had been running the Air Force art program, as "America's top aero-space illustrator. Paul Calle and Robert Shore had both painted for the Air Force program. Mitchell Jamieson, who had run a unit of the Navy art program during WW II, rounded out the program. Alfred Blaustein was the only artist to turn down the invitation.

The procedures that would remain in place for more than a decade were given a trial run in the spring of 1963. The artists received an $800 commission, which had to cover any expenses incurred while visiting a NASA facility where they could paint whatever interested them. In return, they would present their finished pieces, and all of their sketches, to the space agency. The experiment was a success, and what might have been a one-time effort to dispatch artists to witness and record the Gordon Cooper flight provided the basis for an on-going, if small-scale, program. By the end of 1970, Jim Dean and Lester Cooke had dispatched 38 artists to Mercury, Gemini and Apollo launches and to other NASA facilities.

The art program became everything that Jim Webb had hoped it would be. NASA artists produced stunning works of art that documented the agency's step-by-step progress on the way to the moon. The early fruits of the program were presented in a lavishly illustrated book, Eyewitness to Space (New York: Abrams, 1971). Works from the collection illustrated NASA publications and were the basis for educational film strips aimed at school children. In 1965 and again in 1969 the National Gallery of Art mounted two major exhibitions of work from the NASA collection. The USIA sent a selection of NASA paintings overseas, while the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service created two exhibitions of NASA art that toured the nation.

"Since we …began," Dean noted in a reflection on the tenth anniversary of the program, the art initiative had resulted in a long string of positive "press interviews and reports, congressional inquiries, columns in the Congressional Record, [and] White House reports." The NASA effort, he continued, had directly inspired other government art programs. "The Department of the Interior (at least two programs), the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of the Army and even the Veterans Administration have, or are starting, art programs." While he could not take all of the credit, Dean insisted that "our success has encouraged other agencies to get involved and they have succeeded, too."(5)

For all of that, he noted, it was still necessary to "defend" the role of art in the space agency. Dean, with the assistance of Lester Cooke, had been a one-man show, handling the complex logistics of the program, receiving and cataloguing works of art, hanging them himself in museums or on office walls, and struggling to find adequate storage space. In January 1976, a NASA supervisor went so far as to comment that: "Mr. Dean is far too valuable in other areas to spend his time on the relatively menial …jobs he is often burdened with in connection with the art program."(6) Dean placed a much higher value on the art collection, and immediately recommended that NASA officials either devote additional resources to the program, or get out of the art business and turn the existing collection over the National Air and Space Museum, "where it can be properly cared for."(7)

In January 1974 a new building for the National Air and Space Museum (NASM) was taking shape right across the street from NASA headquarters. Discussions regarding areas of cooperation were already underway between NASA officials and museum director Michael Collins, who had flown to the moon as a member of the Apollo 11 crew. Before the end of the year, the space agency had transferred its art collection to the NASM. Mike Collins succeeded in luring Jim Dean to the museum, as well.

The museum already maintained a small art collection, including portraits of aerospace heroes, an assortment of 18th and 19th century prints illustrating the early history of the balloon, an eclectic assortment of works portraying aspects of the history of aviation and a few recent prizes, including several Norman Rockwell paintings of NASA activity. With the acquisition of the NASA art, the museum was in possession of one of the world's great collections of art exploring aerospace themes. Jim Dean would continue to build the NASM collection as the museum's first curator of art. Following his retirement in 1980, other curators would follow in his footsteps, continuing to strengthen the role of art at the NASM. Over three decades after its arrival, however, the NASA art accession of 2,091 works still constitutes almost half of the NASM art collection.

(1) Stevenson's portrait is now in the collection of the National Air and Space Museum (1981-627)

(2) James E. Webb to Hiden Cox, March 16, 1962, memorandum in the NASA art historical collection, Aeronautics Division, National air and Space Museum. Webb's preference for a group portrait of the astronauts was apparently not heeded. In the end, Stevenson painted an individual portrait of John Glenn, which is also in the NASM collection (1963-398).

(3) Shelby Thompson, memorandum for the record, July 6, 1962, NASA art historical collection, NASA, Aeronautics Division.

(4) John Walker draft of a talk, March 5, 1965, copy in NASA Art historical collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

(5) James Dean, memorandum for the record, August 6, 1973, NASA art history collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

(6) Director of Planning and Media Development to Assistant Administrator for Public Affairs, January 24, 1974, NASA art history collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

(7) James Dean to the Assistant Administrator for Public Affairs, January 24, 1974, copy in NASA Art history Collection, Aeronautics Division, NASM.

Tom D. Crouch

Senior Curator, Aeronautics

National Air and Space Museum

Smithsonian Institution

July 26, 2007

Drawing, Felt Tip Pen on Paper

National Air and Space Museum
Press questioning, Monday, March 22.

The spring of 1962 was a busy time for the men and women of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. On February 20, John H. Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth. For the first time since the launch of Sputnik 1 on October 4, 1957, the U.S. was positioned to match and exceed Soviet achievements in space. NASA was an agency with a mission -- to meet President John F. Kennedy's challenge of sending human beings to the moon and returning them safely to earth by the end of the decade. Within a year, three more Mercury astronauts would fly into orbit. Plans were falling into place for a follow-on series of two-man Gemini missions that would set the stage for the Apollo voyages to the moon.

In early March 1962, artist Bruce Stevenson brought his large portrait of Alan Shepard, the first American to fly in space, to NASA headquarters.(1) James E. Webb, the administrator of NASA, assumed that the artist was interested in painting a similar portrait of all seven of the Mercury astronauts. Instead, Webb voiced his preference for a group portrait that would emphasize "…the team effort and the togetherness that has characterized the first group of astronauts to be trained by this nation." More important, the episode convinced the administrator that "…we should consider in a deliberate way just what NASA should do in the field of fine arts to commemorate the …historic events" of the American space program.(2)

In addition to portraits, Webb wanted to encourage artists to capture the excitement and deeper meaning of space flight. He imagined "a nighttime scene showing the great amount of activity involved in the preparation of and countdown for launching," as well as paintings that portrayed activities in space. "The important thing," he concluded, "is to develop a policy on how we intend to treat this matter now and in the next several years and then to get down to the specifics of how we intend to implement this policy…." The first step, he suggested, was to consult with experts in the field, including the director of the National Gallery of Art, and the members of the Fine Arts Commission, the arbiters of architectural and artistic taste who passed judgment on the appearance of official buildings and monuments in the nation's capital.

Webb's memo of March 16, 1962 was the birth certificate of the NASA art program. Shelby Thompson, the director of the agency's Office of Educational Programs and Services, assigned James Dean, a young artist working as a special assistant in his office, to the project. On June 19, 1962 Thompson met with the Fine Arts Commission, requesting advice as to how "…NASA should develop a basis for use of paintings and sculptures to depict significant historical events and other activities in our program."(3)

David E. Finley, the chairman and former director of the National Gallery of Art, applauded the idea, and suggested that the agency should study the experience of the U.S. Air Force, which had amassed some 800 paintings since establishing an art program in 1954. He also introduced Thompson to Hereward Lester Cooke, curator of paintings at the National Gallery of Art.

An imposing bear of a man standing over six feet tall, Lester Cooke was a graduate of Yale and Oxford, with a Princeton PhD. The son of a physics professor and a veteran of the U.S. Army Air Forces, he was both fascinated by science and felt a personal connection to flight. On a professional level, Cooke had directed American participation in international art competitions and produced articles and illustrations for the National Geographic Magazine. He jumped at the chance to advise NASA on its art program.

While initially cautious with regard to the time the project might require of one of his chief curators, John Walker, director of the National Gallery, quickly became one of the most vocal supporters of the NASA art initiative. Certain that "the present space exploration effort by the United States will probably rank among the more important events in the history of mankind," Walker believed that "every possible method of documentation …be used." Artists should be expected "…not only to record the physical appearance of the strange new world which space technology is creating, but to edit, select and probe for the inner meaning and emotional impact of events which may change the destiny of our race." He urged quick action so that "the full flavor of the achievement …not be lost," and hoped that "the past held captive" in any paintings resulting from the effort "will prove to future generations that America produced not only scientists and engineers capable of shaping the destiny of our age, but also artists worthy to keep them company."(4)

Gordon Cooper, the last Mercury astronaut to fly, was scheduled to ride an Atlas rocket into orbit on May 15, 1963. That event would provide the ideal occasion for a test run of the plan Cooke and Dean evolved to launch the art program. In mid-February, Cooke provided Thompson with a list of the artists who should be invited to travel to Cape Canaveral to record their impressions of the event. Andrew Wyeth, whom the curator identified as "the top artist in the U.S. today," headed the list. When the time came, however, Andrew Wyeth did not go to the Cape for the Cooper launch, but his son Jamie would participate in the program during the Gemini and Apollo years.

The list of invited artists also included Peter Hurd, Andrew Wyeth's brother-in-law, who had served as a wartime artist with the Army Air Force; George Weymouth, whom Wyeth regarded as "the best of his pupils"; and John McCoy, another Wyeth associate. Cooke regarded the next man on the list, Robert McCall, who had been running the Air Force art program, as "America's top aero-space illustrator. Paul Calle and Robert Shore had both painted for the Air Force program. Mitchell Jamieson, who had run a unit of the Navy art program during WW II, rounded out the program. Alfred Blaustein was the only artist to turn down the invitation.

The procedures that would remain in place for more than a decade were given a trial run in the spring of 1963. The artists received an $800 commission, which had to cover any expenses incurred while visiting a NASA facility where they could paint whatever interested them. In return, they would present their finished pieces, and all of their sketches, to the space agency. The experiment was a success, and what might have been a one-time effort to dispatch artists to witness and record the Gordon Cooper flight provided the basis for an on-going, if small-scale, program. By the end of 1970, Jim Dean and Lester Cooke had dispatched 38 artists to Mercury, Gemini and Apollo launches and to other NASA facilities.

The art program became everything that Jim Webb had hoped it would be. NASA artists produced stunning works of art that documented the agency's step-by-step progress on the way to the moon. The early fruits of the program were presented in a lavishly illustrated book, Eyewitness to Space (New York: Abrams, 1971). Works from the collection illustrated NASA publications and were the basis for educational film strips aimed at school children. In 1965 and again in 1969 the National Gallery of Art mounted two major exhibitions of work from the NASA collection. The USIA sent a selection of NASA paintings overseas, while the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service created two exhibitions of NASA art that toured the nation.

"Since we …began," Dean noted in a reflection on the tenth anniversary of the program, the art initiative had resulted in a long string of positive "press interviews and reports, congressional inquiries, columns in the Congressional Record, [and] White House reports." The NASA effort, he continued, had directly inspired other government art programs. "The Department of the Interior (at least two programs), the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of the Army and even the Veterans Administration have, or are starting, art programs." While he could not take all of the credit, Dean insisted that "our success has encouraged other agencies to get involved and they have succeeded, too."(5)

For all of that, he noted, it was still necessary to "defend" the role of art in the space agency. Dean, with the assistance of Lester Cooke, had been a one-man show, handling the complex logistics of the program, receiving and cataloguing works of art, hanging them himself in museums or on office walls, and struggling to find adequate storage space. In January 1976, a NASA supervisor went so far as to comment that: "Mr. Dean is far too valuable in other areas to spend his time on the relatively menial …jobs he is often burdened with in connection with the art program."(6) Dean placed a much higher value on the art collection, and immediately recommended that NASA officials either devote additional resources to the program, or get out of the art business and turn the existing collection over the National Air and Space Museum, "where it can be properly cared for."(7)

In January 1974 a new building for the National Air and Space Museum (NASM) was taking shape right across the street from NASA headquarters. Discussions regarding areas of cooperation were already underway between NASA officials and museum director Michael Collins, who had flown to the moon as a member of the Apollo 11 crew. Before the end of the year, the space agency had transferred its art collection to the NASM. Mike Collins succeeded in luring Jim Dean to the museum, as well.

The museum already maintained a small art collection, including portraits of aerospace heroes, an assortment of 18th and 19th century prints illustrating the early history of the balloon, an eclectic assortment of works portraying aspects of the history of aviation and a few recent prizes, including several Norman Rockwell paintings of NASA activity. With the acquisition of the NASA art, the museum was in possession of one of the world's great collections of art exploring aerospace themes. Jim Dean would continue to build the NASM collection as the museum's first curator of art. Following his retirement in 1980, other curators would follow in his footsteps, continuing to strengthen the role of art at the NASM. Over three decades after its arrival, however, the NASA art accession of 2,091 works still constitutes almost half of the NASM art collection.

(1) Stevenson's portrait is now in the collection of the National Air and Space Museum (1981-627)

(2) James E. Webb to Hiden Cox, March 16, 1962, memorandum in the NASA art historical collection, Aeronautics Division, National air and Space Museum. Webb's preference for a group portrait of the astronauts was apparently not heeded. In the end, Stevenson painted an individual portrait of John Glenn, which is also in the NASM collection (1963-398).

(3) Shelby Thompson, memorandum for the record, July 6, 1962, NASA art historical collection, NASA, Aeronautics Division.

(4) John Walker draft of a talk, March 5, 1965, copy in NASA Art historical collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

(5) James Dean, memorandum for the record, August 6, 1973, NASA art history collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

(6) Director of Planning and Media Development to Assistant Administrator for Public Affairs, January 24, 1974, NASA art history collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

(7) James Dean to the Assistant Administrator for Public Affairs, January 24, 1974, copy in NASA Art history Collection, Aeronautics Division, NASM.

Tom D. Crouch

Senior Curator, Aeronautics

National Air and Space Museum

Smithsonian Institution

July 26, 2007

Cape Kennedy: Fire Department

National Air and Space Museum
Cape Kennedy, Fire Department, 6/3/65.

The spring of 1962 was a busy time for the men and women of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. On February 20, John H. Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth. For the first time since the launch of Sputnik 1 on October 4, 1957, the U.S. was positioned to match and exceed Soviet achievements in space. NASA was an agency with a mission -- to meet President John F. Kennedy's challenge of sending human beings to the moon and returning them safely to earth by the end of the decade. Within a year, three more Mercury astronauts would fly into orbit. Plans were falling into place for a follow-on series of two-man Gemini missions that would set the stage for the Apollo voyages to the moon.

In early March 1962, artist Bruce Stevenson brought his large portrait of Alan Shepard, the first American to fly in space, to NASA headquarters.(1) James E. Webb, the administrator of NASA, assumed that the artist was interested in painting a similar portrait of all seven of the Mercury astronauts. Instead, Webb voiced his preference for a group portrait that would emphasize "…the team effort and the togetherness that has characterized the first group of astronauts to be trained by this nation." More important, the episode convinced the administrator that "…we should consider in a deliberate way just what NASA should do in the field of fine arts to commemorate the …historic events" of the American space program.(2)

In addition to portraits, Webb wanted to encourage artists to capture the excitement and deeper meaning of space flight. He imagined "a nighttime scene showing the great amount of activity involved in the preparation of and countdown for launching," as well as paintings that portrayed activities in space. "The important thing," he concluded, "is to develop a policy on how we intend to treat this matter now and in the next several years and then to get down to the specifics of how we intend to implement this policy…." The first step, he suggested, was to consult with experts in the field, including the director of the National Gallery of Art, and the members of the Fine Arts Commission, the arbiters of architectural and artistic taste who passed judgment on the appearance of official buildings and monuments in the nation's capital.

Webb's memo of March 16, 1962 was the birth certificate of the NASA art program. Shelby Thompson, the director of the agency's Office of Educational Programs and Services, assigned James Dean, a young artist working as a special assistant in his office, to the project. On June 19, 1962 Thompson met with the Fine Arts Commission, requesting advice as to how "…NASA should develop a basis for use of paintings and sculptures to depict significant historical events and other activities in our program."(3)

David E. Finley, the chairman and former director of the National Gallery of Art, applauded the idea, and suggested that the agency should study the experience of the U.S. Air Force, which had amassed some 800 paintings since establishing an art program in 1954. He also introduced Thompson to Hereward Lester Cooke, curator of paintings at the National Gallery of Art.

An imposing bear of a man standing over six feet tall, Lester Cooke was a graduate of Yale and Oxford, with a Princeton PhD. The son of a physics professor and a veteran of the U.S. Army Air Forces, he was both fascinated by science and felt a personal connection to flight. On a professional level, Cooke had directed American participation in international art competitions and produced articles and illustrations for the National Geographic Magazine. He jumped at the chance to advise NASA on its art program.

While initially cautious with regard to the time the project might require of one of his chief curators, John Walker, director of the National Gallery, quickly became one of the most vocal supporters of the NASA art initiative. Certain that "the present space exploration effort by the United States will probably rank among the more important events in the history of mankind," Walker believed that "every possible method of documentation …be used." Artists should be expected "…not only to record the physical appearance of the strange new world which space technology is creating, but to edit, select and probe for the inner meaning and emotional impact of events which may change the destiny of our race." He urged quick action so that "the full flavor of the achievement …not be lost," and hoped that "the past held captive" in any paintings resulting from the effort "will prove to future generations that America produced not only scientists and engineers capable of shaping the destiny of our age, but also artists worthy to keep them company."(4)

Gordon Cooper, the last Mercury astronaut to fly, was scheduled to ride an Atlas rocket into orbit on May 15, 1963. That event would provide the ideal occasion for a test run of the plan Cooke and Dean evolved to launch the art program. In mid-February, Cooke provided Thompson with a list of the artists who should be invited to travel to Cape Canaveral to record their impressions of the event. Andrew Wyeth, whom the curator identified as "the top artist in the U.S. today," headed the list. When the time came, however, Andrew Wyeth did not go to the Cape for the Cooper launch, but his son Jamie would participate in the program during the Gemini and Apollo years.

The list of invited artists also included Peter Hurd, Andrew Wyeth's brother-in-law, who had served as a wartime artist with the Army Air Force; George Weymouth, whom Wyeth regarded as "the best of his pupils"; and John McCoy, another Wyeth associate. Cooke regarded the next man on the list, Robert McCall, who had been running the Air Force art program, as "America's top aero-space illustrator. Paul Calle and Robert Shore had both painted for the Air Force program. Mitchell Jamieson, who had run a unit of the Navy art program during WW II, rounded out the program. Alfred Blaustein was the only artist to turn down the invitation.

The procedures that would remain in place for more than a decade were given a trial run in the spring of 1963. The artists received an $800 commission, which had to cover any expenses incurred while visiting a NASA facility where they could paint whatever interested them. In return, they would present their finished pieces, and all of their sketches, to the space agency. The experiment was a success, and what might have been a one-time effort to dispatch artists to witness and record the Gordon Cooper flight provided the basis for an on-going, if small-scale, program. By the end of 1970, Jim Dean and Lester Cooke had dispatched 38 artists to Mercury, Gemini and Apollo launches and to other NASA facilities.

The art program became everything that Jim Webb had hoped it would be. NASA artists produced stunning works of art that documented the agency's step-by-step progress on the way to the moon. The early fruits of the program were presented in a lavishly illustrated book, Eyewitness to Space (New York: Abrams, 1971). Works from the collection illustrated NASA publications and were the basis for educational film strips aimed at school children. In 1965 and again in 1969 the National Gallery of Art mounted two major exhibitions of work from the NASA collection. The USIA sent a selection of NASA paintings overseas, while the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service created two exhibitions of NASA art that toured the nation.

"Since we …began," Dean noted in a reflection on the tenth anniversary of the program, the art initiative had resulted in a long string of positive "press interviews and reports, congressional inquiries, columns in the Congressional Record, [and] White House reports." The NASA effort, he continued, had directly inspired other government art programs. "The Department of the Interior (at least two programs), the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of the Army and even the Veterans Administration have, or are starting, art programs." While he could not take all of the credit, Dean insisted that "our success has encouraged other agencies to get involved and they have succeeded, too."(5)

For all of that, he noted, it was still necessary to "defend" the role of art in the space agency. Dean, with the assistance of Lester Cooke, had been a one-man show, handling the complex logistics of the program, receiving and cataloguing works of art, hanging them himself in museums or on office walls, and struggling to find adequate storage space. In January 1976, a NASA supervisor went so far as to comment that: "Mr. Dean is far too valuable in other areas to spend his time on the relatively menial …jobs he is often burdened with in connection with the art program."(6) Dean placed a much higher value on the art collection, and immediately recommended that NASA officials either devote additional resources to the program, or get out of the art business and turn the existing collection over the National Air and Space Museum, "where it can be properly cared for."(7)

In January 1974 a new building for the National Air and Space Museum (NASM) was taking shape right across the street from NASA headquarters. Discussions regarding areas of cooperation were already underway between NASA officials and museum director Michael Collins, who had flown to the moon as a member of the Apollo 11 crew. Before the end of the year, the space agency had transferred its art collection to the NASM. Mike Collins succeeded in luring Jim Dean to the museum, as well.

The museum already maintained a small art collection, including portraits of aerospace heroes, an assortment of 18th and 19th century prints illustrating the early history of the balloon, an eclectic assortment of works portraying aspects of the history of aviation and a few recent prizes, including several Norman Rockwell paintings of NASA activity. With the acquisition of the NASA art, the museum was in possession of one of the world's great collections of art exploring aerospace themes. Jim Dean would continue to build the NASM collection as the museum's first curator of art. Following his retirement in 1980, other curators would follow in his footsteps, continuing to strengthen the role of art at the NASM. Over three decades after its arrival, however, the NASA art accession of 2,091 works still constitutes almost half of the NASM art collection.

(1) Stevenson's portrait is now in the collection of the National Air and Space Museum (1981-627)

(2) James E. Webb to Hiden Cox, March 16, 1962, memorandum in the NASA art historical collection, Aeronautics Division, National air and Space Museum. Webb's preference for a group portrait of the astronauts was apparently not heeded. In the end, Stevenson painted an individual portrait of John Glenn, which is also in the NASM collection (1963-398).

(3) Shelby Thompson, memorandum for the record, July 6, 1962, NASA art historical collection, NASA, Aeronautics Division.

(4) John Walker draft of a talk, March 5, 1965, copy in NASA Art historical collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

(5) James Dean, memorandum for the record, August 6, 1973, NASA art history collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

(6) Director of Planning and Media Development to Assistant Administrator for Public Affairs, January 24, 1974, NASA art history collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

(7) James Dean to the Assistant Administrator for Public Affairs, January 24, 1974, copy in NASA Art history Collection, Aeronautics Division, NASM.

Tom D. Crouch

Senior Curator, Aeronautics

National Air and Space Museum

Smithsonian Institution

July 26, 2007

Pad 37 Sketch II

National Air and Space Museum
Pad 37, Sketch II. Two views of the flame deflector with a loose translation of the gantry in between the two deflectors; flame deflector on the left shown from a farther distance than the one on the right; deflector on the right has two men in front of it.

The spring of 1962 was a busy time for the men and women of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. On February 20, John H. Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth. For the first time since the launch of Sputnik 1 on October 4, 1957, the U.S. was positioned to match and exceed Soviet achievements in space. NASA was an agency with a mission -- to meet President John F. Kennedy's challenge of sending human beings to the moon and returning them safely to earth by the end of the decade. Within a year, three more Mercury astronauts would fly into orbit. Plans were falling into place for a follow-on series of two-man Gemini missions that would set the stage for the Apollo voyages to the moon.

In early March 1962, artist Bruce Stevenson brought his large portrait of Alan Shepard, the first American to fly in space, to NASA headquarters.(1) James E. Webb, the administrator of NASA, assumed that the artist was interested in painting a similar portrait of all seven of the Mercury astronauts. Instead, Webb voiced his preference for a group portrait that would emphasize "…the team effort and the togetherness that has characterized the first group of astronauts to be trained by this nation." More important, the episode convinced the administrator that "…we should consider in a deliberate way just what NASA should do in the field of fine arts to commemorate the …historic events" of the American space program.(2)

In addition to portraits, Webb wanted to encourage artists to capture the excitement and deeper meaning of space flight. He imagined "a nighttime scene showing the great amount of activity involved in the preparation of and countdown for launching," as well as paintings that portrayed activities in space. "The important thing," he concluded, "is to develop a policy on how we intend to treat this matter now and in the next several years and then to get down to the specifics of how we intend to implement this policy…." The first step, he suggested, was to consult with experts in the field, including the director of the National Gallery of Art, and the members of the Fine Arts Commission, the arbiters of architectural and artistic taste who passed judgment on the appearance of official buildings and monuments in the nation's capital.

Webb's memo of March 16, 1962 was the birth certificate of the NASA art program. Shelby Thompson, the director of the agency's Office of Educational Programs and Services, assigned James Dean, a young artist working as a special assistant in his office, to the project. On June 19, 1962 Thompson met with the Fine Arts Commission, requesting advice as to how "…NASA should develop a basis for use of paintings and sculptures to depict significant historical events and other activities in our program."(3)

David E. Finley, the chairman and former director of the National Gallery of Art, applauded the idea, and suggested that the agency should study the experience of the U.S. Air Force, which had amassed some 800 paintings since establishing an art program in 1954. He also introduced Thompson to Hereward Lester Cooke, curator of paintings at the National Gallery of Art.

An imposing bear of a man standing over six feet tall, Lester Cooke was a graduate of Yale and Oxford, with a Princeton PhD. The son of a physics professor and a veteran of the U.S. Army Air Forces, he was both fascinated by science and felt a personal connection to flight. On a professional level, Cooke had directed American participation in international art competitions and produced articles and illustrations for the National Geographic Magazine. He jumped at the chance to advise NASA on its art program.

While initially cautious with regard to the time the project might require of one of his chief curators, John Walker, director of the National Gallery, quickly became one of the most vocal supporters of the NASA art initiative. Certain that "the present space exploration effort by the United States will probably rank among the more important events in the history of mankind," Walker believed that "every possible method of documentation …be used." Artists should be expected "…not only to record the physical appearance of the strange new world which space technology is creating, but to edit, select and probe for the inner meaning and emotional impact of events which may change the destiny of our race." He urged quick action so that "the full flavor of the achievement …not be lost," and hoped that "the past held captive" in any paintings resulting from the effort "will prove to future generations that America produced not only scientists and engineers capable of shaping the destiny of our age, but also artists worthy to keep them company."(4)

Gordon Cooper, the last Mercury astronaut to fly, was scheduled to ride an Atlas rocket into orbit on May 15, 1963. That event would provide the ideal occasion for a test run of the plan Cooke and Dean evolved to launch the art program. In mid-February, Cooke provided Thompson with a list of the artists who should be invited to travel to Cape Canaveral to record their impressions of the event. Andrew Wyeth, whom the curator identified as "the top artist in the U.S. today," headed the list. When the time came, however, Andrew Wyeth did not go to the Cape for the Cooper launch, but his son Jamie would participate in the program during the Gemini and Apollo years.

The list of invited artists also included Peter Hurd, Andrew Wyeth's brother-in-law, who had served as a wartime artist with the Army Air Force; George Weymouth, whom Wyeth regarded as "the best of his pupils"; and John McCoy, another Wyeth associate. Cooke regarded the next man on the list, Robert McCall, who had been running the Air Force art program, as "America's top aero-space illustrator. Paul Calle and Robert Shore had both painted for the Air Force program. Mitchell Jamieson, who had run a unit of the Navy art program during WW II, rounded out the program. Alfred Blaustein was the only artist to turn down the invitation.

The procedures that would remain in place for more than a decade were given a trial run in the spring of 1963. The artists received an $800 commission, which had to cover any expenses incurred while visiting a NASA facility where they could paint whatever interested them. In return, they would present their finished pieces, and all of their sketches, to the space agency. The experiment was a success, and what might have been a one-time effort to dispatch artists to witness and record the Gordon Cooper flight provided the basis for an on-going, if small-scale, program. By the end of 1970, Jim Dean and Lester Cooke had dispatched 38 artists to Mercury, Gemini and Apollo launches and to other NASA facilities.

The art program became everything that Jim Webb had hoped it would be. NASA artists produced stunning works of art that documented the agency's step-by-step progress on the way to the moon. The early fruits of the program were presented in a lavishly illustrated book, Eyewitness to Space (New York: Abrams, 1971). Works from the collection illustrated NASA publications and were the basis for educational film strips aimed at school children. In 1965 and again in 1969 the National Gallery of Art mounted two major exhibitions of work from the NASA collection. The USIA sent a selection of NASA paintings overseas, while the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service created two exhibitions of NASA art that toured the nation.

"Since we …began," Dean noted in a reflection on the tenth anniversary of the program, the art initiative had resulted in a long string of positive "press interviews and reports, congressional inquiries, columns in the Congressional Record, [and] White House reports." The NASA effort, he continued, had directly inspired other government art programs. "The Department of the Interior (at least two programs), the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of the Army and even the Veterans Administration have, or are starting, art programs." While he could not take all of the credit, Dean insisted that "our success has encouraged other agencies to get involved and they have succeeded, too."(5)

For all of that, he noted, it was still necessary to "defend" the role of art in the space agency. Dean, with the assistance of Lester Cooke, had been a one-man show, handling the complex logistics of the program, receiving and cataloguing works of art, hanging them himself in museums or on office walls, and struggling to find adequate storage space. In January 1976, a NASA supervisor went so far as to comment that: "Mr. Dean is far too valuable in other areas to spend his time on the relatively menial …jobs he is often burdened with in connection with the art program."(6) Dean placed a much higher value on the art collection, and immediately recommended that NASA officials either devote additional resources to the program, or get out of the art business and turn the existing collection over the National Air and Space Museum, "where it can be properly cared for."(7)

In January 1974 a new building for the National Air and Space Museum (NASM) was taking shape right across the street from NASA headquarters. Discussions regarding areas of cooperation were already underway between NASA officials and museum director Michael Collins, who had flown to the moon as a member of the Apollo 11 crew. Before the end of the year, the space agency had transferred its art collection to the NASM. Mike Collins succeeded in luring Jim Dean to the museum, as well.

The museum already maintained a small art collection, including portraits of aerospace heroes, an assortment of 18th and 19th century prints illustrating the early history of the balloon, an eclectic assortment of works portraying aspects of the history of aviation and a few recent prizes, including several Norman Rockwell paintings of NASA activity. With the acquisition of the NASA art, the museum was in possession of one of the world's great collections of art exploring aerospace themes. Jim Dean would continue to build the NASM collection as the museum's first curator of art. Following his retirement in 1980, other curators would follow in his footsteps, continuing to strengthen the role of art at the NASM. Over three decades after its arrival, however, the NASA art accession of 2,091 works still constitutes almost half of the NASM art collection.

(1) Stevenson's portrait is now in the collection of the National Air and Space Museum (1981-627)

(2) James E. Webb to Hiden Cox, March 16, 1962, memorandum in the NASA art historical collection, Aeronautics Division, National air and Space Museum. Webb's preference for a group portrait of the astronauts was apparently not heeded. In the end, Stevenson painted an individual portrait of John Glenn, which is also in the NASM collection (1963-398).

(3) Shelby Thompson, memorandum for the record, July 6, 1962, NASA art historical collection, NASA, Aeronautics Division.

(4) John Walker draft of a talk, March 5, 1965, copy in NASA Art historical collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

(5) James Dean, memorandum for the record, August 6, 1973, NASA art history collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

(6) Director of Planning and Media Development to Assistant Administrator for Public Affairs, January 24, 1974, NASA art history collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

(7) James Dean to the Assistant Administrator for Public Affairs, January 24, 1974, copy in NASA Art history Collection, Aeronautics Division, NASM.

Tom D. Crouch

Senior Curator, Aeronautics

National Air and Space Museum

Smithsonian Institution

July 26, 2007

Cape Kennedy From Top of 37

National Air and Space Museum
Cape Kennedy from top of 37. View from atop the gantry on pad 37 with a sense of deep space into the landscape; Saturn blockhouse shown on the bottom of the scene; land shaded in the distance; horizon line near the top edge of the paper; pencil sketch on the other side of the blockhouse.

The spring of 1962 was a busy time for the men and women of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. On February 20, John H. Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth. For the first time since the launch of Sputnik 1 on October 4, 1957, the U.S. was positioned to match and exceed Soviet achievements in space. NASA was an agency with a mission -- to meet President John F. Kennedy's challenge of sending human beings to the moon and returning them safely to earth by the end of the decade. Within a year, three more Mercury astronauts would fly into orbit. Plans were falling into place for a follow-on series of two-man Gemini missions that would set the stage for the Apollo voyages to the moon.

In early March 1962, artist Bruce Stevenson brought his large portrait of Alan Shepard, the first American to fly in space, to NASA headquarters.(1) James E. Webb, the administrator of NASA, assumed that the artist was interested in painting a similar portrait of all seven of the Mercury astronauts. Instead, Webb voiced his preference for a group portrait that would emphasize "…the team effort and the togetherness that has characterized the first group of astronauts to be trained by this nation." More important, the episode convinced the administrator that "…we should consider in a deliberate way just what NASA should do in the field of fine arts to commemorate the …historic events" of the American space program.(2)

In addition to portraits, Webb wanted to encourage artists to capture the excitement and deeper meaning of space flight. He imagined "a nighttime scene showing the great amount of activity involved in the preparation of and countdown for launching," as well as paintings that portrayed activities in space. "The important thing," he concluded, "is to develop a policy on how we intend to treat this matter now and in the next several years and then to get down to the specifics of how we intend to implement this policy…." The first step, he suggested, was to consult with experts in the field, including the director of the National Gallery of Art, and the members of the Fine Arts Commission, the arbiters of architectural and artistic taste who passed judgment on the appearance of official buildings and monuments in the nation's capital.

Webb's memo of March 16, 1962 was the birth certificate of the NASA art program. Shelby Thompson, the director of the agency's Office of Educational Programs and Services, assigned James Dean, a young artist working as a special assistant in his office, to the project. On June 19, 1962 Thompson met with the Fine Arts Commission, requesting advice as to how "…NASA should develop a basis for use of paintings and sculptures to depict significant historical events and other activities in our program."(3)

David E. Finley, the chairman and former director of the National Gallery of Art, applauded the idea, and suggested that the agency should study the experience of the U.S. Air Force, which had amassed some 800 paintings since establishing an art program in 1954. He also introduced Thompson to Hereward Lester Cooke, curator of paintings at the National Gallery of Art.

An imposing bear of a man standing over six feet tall, Lester Cooke was a graduate of Yale and Oxford, with a Princeton PhD. The son of a physics professor and a veteran of the U.S. Army Air Forces, he was both fascinated by science and felt a personal connection to flight. On a professional level, Cooke had directed American participation in international art competitions and produced articles and illustrations for the National Geographic Magazine. He jumped at the chance to advise NASA on its art program.

While initially cautious with regard to the time the project might require of one of his chief curators, John Walker, director of the National Gallery, quickly became one of the most vocal supporters of the NASA art initiative. Certain that "the present space exploration effort by the United States will probably rank among the more important events in the history of mankind," Walker believed that "every possible method of documentation …be used." Artists should be expected "…not only to record the physical appearance of the strange new world which space technology is creating, but to edit, select and probe for the inner meaning and emotional impact of events which may change the destiny of our race." He urged quick action so that "the full flavor of the achievement …not be lost," and hoped that "the past held captive" in any paintings resulting from the effort "will prove to future generations that America produced not only scientists and engineers capable of shaping the destiny of our age, but also artists worthy to keep them company."(4)

Gordon Cooper, the last Mercury astronaut to fly, was scheduled to ride an Atlas rocket into orbit on May 15, 1963. That event would provide the ideal occasion for a test run of the plan Cooke and Dean evolved to launch the art program. In mid-February, Cooke provided Thompson with a list of the artists who should be invited to travel to Cape Canaveral to record their impressions of the event. Andrew Wyeth, whom the curator identified as "the top artist in the U.S. today," headed the list. When the time came, however, Andrew Wyeth did not go to the Cape for the Cooper launch, but his son Jamie would participate in the program during the Gemini and Apollo years.

The list of invited artists also included Peter Hurd, Andrew Wyeth's brother-in-law, who had served as a wartime artist with the Army Air Force; George Weymouth, whom Wyeth regarded as "the best of his pupils"; and John McCoy, another Wyeth associate. Cooke regarded the next man on the list, Robert McCall, who had been running the Air Force art program, as "America's top aero-space illustrator. Paul Calle and Robert Shore had both painted for the Air Force program. Mitchell Jamieson, who had run a unit of the Navy art program during WW II, rounded out the program. Alfred Blaustein was the only artist to turn down the invitation.

The procedures that would remain in place for more than a decade were given a trial run in the spring of 1963. The artists received an $800 commission, which had to cover any expenses incurred while visiting a NASA facility where they could paint whatever interested them. In return, they would present their finished pieces, and all of their sketches, to the space agency. The experiment was a success, and what might have been a one-time effort to dispatch artists to witness and record the Gordon Cooper flight provided the basis for an on-going, if small-scale, program. By the end of 1970, Jim Dean and Lester Cooke had dispatched 38 artists to Mercury, Gemini and Apollo launches and to other NASA facilities.

The art program became everything that Jim Webb had hoped it would be. NASA artists produced stunning works of art that documented the agency's step-by-step progress on the way to the moon. The early fruits of the program were presented in a lavishly illustrated book, Eyewitness to Space (New York: Abrams, 1971). Works from the collection illustrated NASA publications and were the basis for educational film strips aimed at school children. In 1965 and again in 1969 the National Gallery of Art mounted two major exhibitions of work from the NASA collection. The USIA sent a selection of NASA paintings overseas, while the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service created two exhibitions of NASA art that toured the nation.

"Since we …began," Dean noted in a reflection on the tenth anniversary of the program, the art initiative had resulted in a long string of positive "press interviews and reports, congressional inquiries, columns in the Congressional Record, [and] White House reports." The NASA effort, he continued, had directly inspired other government art programs. "The Department of the Interior (at least two programs), the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of the Army and even the Veterans Administration have, or are starting, art programs." While he could not take all of the credit, Dean insisted that "our success has encouraged other agencies to get involved and they have succeeded, too."(5)

For all of that, he noted, it was still necessary to "defend" the role of art in the space agency. Dean, with the assistance of Lester Cooke, had been a one-man show, handling the complex logistics of the program, receiving and cataloguing works of art, hanging them himself in museums or on office walls, and struggling to find adequate storage space. In January 1976, a NASA supervisor went so far as to comment that: "Mr. Dean is far too valuable in other areas to spend his time on the relatively menial …jobs he is often burdened with in connection with the art program."(6) Dean placed a much higher value on the art collection, and immediately recommended that NASA officials either devote additional resources to the program, or get out of the art business and turn the existing collection over the National Air and Space Museum, "where it can be properly cared for."(7)

In January 1974 a new building for the National Air and Space Museum (NASM) was taking shape right across the street from NASA headquarters. Discussions regarding areas of cooperation were already underway between NASA officials and museum director Michael Collins, who had flown to the moon as a member of the Apollo 11 crew. Before the end of the year, the space agency had transferred its art collection to the NASM. Mike Collins succeeded in luring Jim Dean to the museum, as well.

The museum already maintained a small art collection, including portraits of aerospace heroes, an assortment of 18th and 19th century prints illustrating the early history of the balloon, an eclectic assortment of works portraying aspects of the history of aviation and a few recent prizes, including several Norman Rockwell paintings of NASA activity. With the acquisition of the NASA art, the museum was in possession of one of the world's great collections of art exploring aerospace themes. Jim Dean would continue to build the NASM collection as the museum's first curator of art. Following his retirement in 1980, other curators would follow in his footsteps, continuing to strengthen the role of art at the NASM. Over three decades after its arrival, however, the NASA art accession of 2,091 works still constitutes almost half of the NASM art collection.

(1) Stevenson's portrait is now in the collection of the National Air and Space Museum (1981-627)

(2) James E. Webb to Hiden Cox, March 16, 1962, memorandum in the NASA art historical collection, Aeronautics Division, National air and Space Museum. Webb's preference for a group portrait of the astronauts was apparently not heeded. In the end, Stevenson painted an individual portrait of John Glenn, which is also in the NASM collection (1963-398).

(3) Shelby Thompson, memorandum for the record, July 6, 1962, NASA art historical collection, NASA, Aeronautics Division.

(4) John Walker draft of a talk, March 5, 1965, copy in NASA Art historical collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

(5) James Dean, memorandum for the record, August 6, 1973, NASA art history collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

(6) Director of Planning and Media Development to Assistant Administrator for Public Affairs, January 24, 1974, NASA art history collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

(7) James Dean to the Assistant Administrator for Public Affairs, January 24, 1974, copy in NASA Art history Collection, Aeronautics Division, NASM.

Tom D. Crouch

Senior Curator, Aeronautics

National Air and Space Museum

Smithsonian Institution

July 26, 2007

Distant View of Cape Kennedy at Night I

National Air and Space Museum
Distant view of Cape Kennedy at night: I. Paper with top half taken up by notes and the bottom half taken up by a panoramic view of Cape K.; vague sketch showing an array of gantry towers with soft shading on the grounds; pencil sketch on the back of an even more distant view with notes scattered around the scene in the center.

The spring of 1962 was a busy time for the men and women of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. On February 20, John H. Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth. For the first time since the launch of Sputnik 1 on October 4, 1957, the U.S. was positioned to match and exceed Soviet achievements in space. NASA was an agency with a mission -- to meet President John F. Kennedy's challenge of sending human beings to the moon and returning them safely to earth by the end of the decade. Within a year, three more Mercury astronauts would fly into orbit. Plans were falling into place for a follow-on series of two-man Gemini missions that would set the stage for the Apollo voyages to the moon.

In early March 1962, artist Bruce Stevenson brought his large portrait of Alan Shepard, the first American to fly in space, to NASA headquarters.(1) James E. Webb, the administrator of NASA, assumed that the artist was interested in painting a similar portrait of all seven of the Mercury astronauts. Instead, Webb voiced his preference for a group portrait that would emphasize "…the team effort and the togetherness that has characterized the first group of astronauts to be trained by this nation." More important, the episode convinced the administrator that "…we should consider in a deliberate way just what NASA should do in the field of fine arts to commemorate the …historic events" of the American space program.(2)

In addition to portraits, Webb wanted to encourage artists to capture the excitement and deeper meaning of space flight. He imagined "a nighttime scene showing the great amount of activity involved in the preparation of and countdown for launching," as well as paintings that portrayed activities in space. "The important thing," he concluded, "is to develop a policy on how we intend to treat this matter now and in the next several years and then to get down to the specifics of how we intend to implement this policy…." The first step, he suggested, was to consult with experts in the field, including the director of the National Gallery of Art, and the members of the Fine Arts Commission, the arbiters of architectural and artistic taste who passed judgment on the appearance of official buildings and monuments in the nation's capital.

Webb's memo of March 16, 1962 was the birth certificate of the NASA art program. Shelby Thompson, the director of the agency's Office of Educational Programs and Services, assigned James Dean, a young artist working as a special assistant in his office, to the project. On June 19, 1962 Thompson met with the Fine Arts Commission, requesting advice as to how "…NASA should develop a basis for use of paintings and sculptures to depict significant historical events and other activities in our program."(3)

David E. Finley, the chairman and former director of the National Gallery of Art, applauded the idea, and suggested that the agency should study the experience of the U.S. Air Force, which had amassed some 800 paintings since establishing an art program in 1954. He also introduced Thompson to Hereward Lester Cooke, curator of paintings at the National Gallery of Art.

An imposing bear of a man standing over six feet tall, Lester Cooke was a graduate of Yale and Oxford, with a Princeton PhD. The son of a physics professor and a veteran of the U.S. Army Air Forces, he was both fascinated by science and felt a personal connection to flight. On a professional level, Cooke had directed American participation in international art competitions and produced articles and illustrations for the National Geographic Magazine. He jumped at the chance to advise NASA on its art program.

While initially cautious with regard to the time the project might require of one of his chief curators, John Walker, director of the National Gallery, quickly became one of the most vocal supporters of the NASA art initiative. Certain that "the present space exploration effort by the United States will probably rank among the more important events in the history of mankind," Walker believed that "every possible method of documentation …be used." Artists should be expected "…not only to record the physical appearance of the strange new world which space technology is creating, but to edit, select and probe for the inner meaning and emotional impact of events which may change the destiny of our race." He urged quick action so that "the full flavor of the achievement …not be lost," and hoped that "the past held captive" in any paintings resulting from the effort "will prove to future generations that America produced not only scientists and engineers capable of shaping the destiny of our age, but also artists worthy to keep them company."(4)

Gordon Cooper, the last Mercury astronaut to fly, was scheduled to ride an Atlas rocket into orbit on May 15, 1963. That event would provide the ideal occasion for a test run of the plan Cooke and Dean evolved to launch the art program. In mid-February, Cooke provided Thompson with a list of the artists who should be invited to travel to Cape Canaveral to record their impressions of the event. Andrew Wyeth, whom the curator identified as "the top artist in the U.S. today," headed the list. When the time came, however, Andrew Wyeth did not go to the Cape for the Cooper launch, but his son Jamie would participate in the program during the Gemini and Apollo years.

The list of invited artists also included Peter Hurd, Andrew Wyeth's brother-in-law, who had served as a wartime artist with the Army Air Force; George Weymouth, whom Wyeth regarded as "the best of his pupils"; and John McCoy, another Wyeth associate. Cooke regarded the next man on the list, Robert McCall, who had been running the Air Force art program, as "America's top aero-space illustrator. Paul Calle and Robert Shore had both painted for the Air Force program. Mitchell Jamieson, who had run a unit of the Navy art program during WW II, rounded out the program. Alfred Blaustein was the only artist to turn down the invitation.

The procedures that would remain in place for more than a decade were given a trial run in the spring of 1963. The artists received an $800 commission, which had to cover any expenses incurred while visiting a NASA facility where they could paint whatever interested them. In return, they would present their finished pieces, and all of their sketches, to the space agency. The experiment was a success, and what might have been a one-time effort to dispatch artists to witness and record the Gordon Cooper flight provided the basis for an on-going, if small-scale, program. By the end of 1970, Jim Dean and Lester Cooke had dispatched 38 artists to Mercury, Gemini and Apollo launches and to other NASA facilities.

The art program became everything that Jim Webb had hoped it would be. NASA artists produced stunning works of art that documented the agency's step-by-step progress on the way to the moon. The early fruits of the program were presented in a lavishly illustrated book, Eyewitness to Space (New York: Abrams, 1971). Works from the collection illustrated NASA publications and were the basis for educational film strips aimed at school children. In 1965 and again in 1969 the National Gallery of Art mounted two major exhibitions of work from the NASA collection. The USIA sent a selection of NASA paintings overseas, while the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service created two exhibitions of NASA art that toured the nation.

"Since we …began," Dean noted in a reflection on the tenth anniversary of the program, the art initiative had resulted in a long string of positive "press interviews and reports, congressional inquiries, columns in the Congressional Record, [and] White House reports." The NASA effort, he continued, had directly inspired other government art programs. "The Department of the Interior (at least two programs), the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of the Army and even the Veterans Administration have, or are starting, art programs." While he could not take all of the credit, Dean insisted that "our success has encouraged other agencies to get involved and they have succeeded, too."(5)

For all of that, he noted, it was still necessary to "defend" the role of art in the space agency. Dean, with the assistance of Lester Cooke, had been a one-man show, handling the complex logistics of the program, receiving and cataloguing works of art, hanging them himself in museums or on office walls, and struggling to find adequate storage space. In January 1976, a NASA supervisor went so far as to comment that: "Mr. Dean is far too valuable in other areas to spend his time on the relatively menial …jobs he is often burdened with in connection with the art program."(6) Dean placed a much higher value on the art collection, and immediately recommended that NASA officials either devote additional resources to the program, or get out of the art business and turn the existing collection over the National Air and Space Museum, "where it can be properly cared for."(7)

In January 1974 a new building for the National Air and Space Museum (NASM) was taking shape right across the street from NASA headquarters. Discussions regarding areas of cooperation were already underway between NASA officials and museum director Michael Collins, who had flown to the moon as a member of the Apollo 11 crew. Before the end of the year, the space agency had transferred its art collection to the NASM. Mike Collins succeeded in luring Jim Dean to the museum, as well.

The museum already maintained a small art collection, including portraits of aerospace heroes, an assortment of 18th and 19th century prints illustrating the early history of the balloon, an eclectic assortment of works portraying aspects of the history of aviation and a few recent prizes, including several Norman Rockwell paintings of NASA activity. With the acquisition of the NASA art, the museum was in possession of one of the world's great collections of art exploring aerospace themes. Jim Dean would continue to build the NASM collection as the museum's first curator of art. Following his retirement in 1980, other curators would follow in his footsteps, continuing to strengthen the role of art at the NASM. Over three decades after its arrival, however, the NASA art accession of 2,091 works still constitutes almost half of the NASM art collection.

(1) Stevenson's portrait is now in the collection of the National Air and Space Museum (1981-627)

(2) James E. Webb to Hiden Cox, March 16, 1962, memorandum in the NASA art historical collection, Aeronautics Division, National air and Space Museum. Webb's preference for a group portrait of the astronauts was apparently not heeded. In the end, Stevenson painted an individual portrait of John Glenn, which is also in the NASM collection (1963-398).

(3) Shelby Thompson, memorandum for the record, July 6, 1962, NASA art historical collection, NASA, Aeronautics Division.

(4) John Walker draft of a talk, March 5, 1965, copy in NASA Art historical collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

(5) James Dean, memorandum for the record, August 6, 1973, NASA art history collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

(6) Director of Planning and Media Development to Assistant Administrator for Public Affairs, January 24, 1974, NASA art history collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

(7) James Dean to the Assistant Administrator for Public Affairs, January 24, 1974, copy in NASA Art history Collection, Aeronautics Division, NASM.

Tom D. Crouch

Senior Curator, Aeronautics

National Air and Space Museum

Smithsonian Institution

July 26, 2007

Panoramic View of Cape Kennedy

National Air and Space Museum
Ink and watercolor painting on paper. Panoramic view of Cape Kennedy, page 22.

In March 1962, James Webb, Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, suggested that artists be enlisted to document the historic effort to send the first human beings to the moon. John Walker, director of the National Gallery of Art, was among those who applauded the idea, urging that artists be encouraged "…not only to record the physical appearance of the strange new world which space technology is creating, but to edit, select and probe for the inner meaning and emotional impact of events which may change the destiny of our race."

Working together, James Dean, a young artist employed by the NASA Public Affairs office, and Dr. H. Lester Cooke, curator of paintings at the National Gallery of Art, created a program that dispatched artists to NASA facilities with an invitation to paint whatever interested them. The result was an extraordinary collection of works of art proving, as one observer noted, "that America produced not only scientists and engineers capable of shaping the destiny of our age, but also artists worthy to keep them company." Transferred to the National Air and Space Museum in 1975, the NASA art collection remains one of the most important elements of what has become perhaps the world's finest collection of aerospace themed art.

The spring of 1962 was a busy time for the men and women of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. On February 20, John H. Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth. For the first time since the launch of Sputnik 1 on October 4, 1957, the U.S. was positioned to match and exceed Soviet achievements in space. NASA was an agency with a mission -- to meet President John F. Kennedy's challenge of sending human beings to the moon and returning them safely to earth by the end of the decade. Within a year, three more Mercury astronauts would fly into orbit. Plans were falling into place for a follow-on series of two-man Gemini missions that would set the stage for the Apollo voyages to the moon.

In early March 1962, artist Bruce Stevenson brought his large portrait of Alan Shepard, the first American to fly in space, to NASA headquarters.(1) James E. Webb, the administrator of NASA, assumed that the artist was interested in painting a similar portrait of all seven of the Mercury astronauts. Instead, Webb voiced his preference for a group portrait that would emphasize "…the team effort and the togetherness that has characterized the first group of astronauts to be trained by this nation." More important, the episode convinced the administrator that "…we should consider in a deliberate way just what NASA should do in the field of fine arts to commemorate the …historic events" of the American space program.(2)

In addition to portraits, Webb wanted to encourage artists to capture the excitement and deeper meaning of space flight. He imagined "a nighttime scene showing the great amount of activity involved in the preparation of and countdown for launching," as well as paintings that portrayed activities in space. "The important thing," he concluded, "is to develop a policy on how we intend to treat this matter now and in the next several years and then to get down to the specifics of how we intend to implement this policy…." The first step, he suggested, was to consult with experts in the field, including the director of the National Gallery of Art, and the members of the Fine Arts Commission, the arbiters of architectural and artistic taste who passed judgment on the appearance of official buildings and monuments in the nation's capital.

Webb's memo of March 16, 1962 was the birth certificate of the NASA art program. Shelby Thompson, the director of the agency's Office of Educational Programs and Services, assigned James Dean, a young artist working as a special assistant in his office, to the project. On June 19, 1962 Thompson met with the Fine Arts Commission, requesting advice as to how "…NASA should develop a basis for use of paintings and sculptures to depict significant historical events and other activities in our program."(3)

David E. Finley, the chairman and former director of the National Gallery of Art, applauded the idea, and suggested that the agency should study the experience of the U.S. Air Force, which had amassed some 800 paintings since establishing an art program in 1954. He also introduced Thompson to Hereward Lester Cooke, curator of paintings at the National Gallery of Art.

An imposing bear of a man standing over six feet tall, Lester Cooke was a graduate of Yale and Oxford, with a Princeton PhD. The son of a physics professor and a veteran of the U.S. Army Air Forces, he was both fascinated by science and felt a personal connection to flight. On a professional level, Cooke had directed American participation in international art competitions and produced articles and illustrations for the National Geographic Magazine. He jumped at the chance to advise NASA on its art program.

While initially cautious with regard to the time the project might require of one of his chief curators, John Walker, director of the National Gallery, quickly became one of the most vocal supporters of the NASA art initiative. Certain that "the present space exploration effort by the United States will probably rank among the more important events in the history of mankind," Walker believed that "every possible method of documentation …be used." Artists should be expected "…not only to record the physical appearance of the strange new world which space technology is creating, but to edit, select and probe for the inner meaning and emotional impact of events which may change the destiny of our race." He urged quick action so that "the full flavor of the achievement …not be lost," and hoped that "the past held captive" in any paintings resulting from the effort "will prove to future generations that America produced not only scientists and engineers capable of shaping the destiny of our age, but also artists worthy to keep them company."(4)

Gordon Cooper, the last Mercury astronaut to fly, was scheduled to ride an Atlas rocket into orbit on May 15, 1963. That event would provide the ideal occasion for a test run of the plan Cooke and Dean evolved to launch the art program. In mid-February, Cooke provided Thompson with a list of the artists who should be invited to travel to Cape Canaveral to record their impressions of the event. Andrew Wyeth, whom the curator identified as "the top artist in the U.S. today," headed the list. When the time came, however, Andrew Wyeth did not go to the Cape for the Cooper launch, but his son Jamie would participate in the program during the Gemini and Apollo years.

The list of invited artists also included Peter Hurd, Andrew Wyeth's brother-in-law, who had served as a wartime artist with the Army Air Force; George Weymouth, whom Wyeth regarded as "the best of his pupils"; and John McCoy, another Wyeth associate. Cooke regarded the next man on the list, Robert McCall, who had been running the Air Force art program, as "America's top aero-space illustrator. Paul Calle and Robert Shore had both painted for the Air Force program. Mitchell Jamieson, who had run a unit of the Navy art program during WW II, rounded out the program. Alfred Blaustein was the only artist to turn down the invitation.

The procedures that would remain in place for more than a decade were given a trial run in the spring of 1963. The artists received an $800 commission, which had to cover any expenses incurred while visiting a NASA facility where they could paint whatever interested them. In return, they would present their finished pieces, and all of their sketches, to the space agency. The experiment was a success, and what might have been a one-time effort to dispatch artists to witness and record the Gordon Cooper flight provided the basis for an on-going, if small-scale, program. By the end of 1970, Jim Dean and Lester Cooke had dispatched 38 artists to Mercury, Gemini and Apollo launches and to other NASA facilities.

The art program became everything that Jim Webb had hoped it would be. NASA artists produced stunning works of art that documented the agency's step-by-step progress on the way to the moon. The early fruits of the program were presented in a lavishly illustrated book, Eyewitness to Space (New York: Abrams, 1971). Works from the collection illustrated NASA publications and were the basis for educational film strips aimed at school children. In 1965 and again in 1969 the National Gallery of Art mounted two major exhibitions of work from the NASA collection. The USIA sent a selection of NASA paintings overseas, while the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service created two exhibitions of NASA art that toured the nation.

"Since we …began," Dean noted in a reflection on the tenth anniversary of the program, the art initiative had resulted in a long string of positive "press interviews and reports, congressional inquiries, columns in the Congressional Record, [and] White House reports." The NASA effort, he continued, had directly inspired other government art programs. "The Department of the Interior (at least two programs), the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of the Army and even the Veterans Administration have, or are starting, art programs." While he could not take all of the credit, Dean insisted that "our success has encouraged other agencies to get involved and they have succeeded, too."(5)

For all of that, he noted, it was still necessary to "defend" the role of art in the space agency. Dean, with the assistance of Lester Cooke, had been a one-man show, handling the complex logistics of the program, receiving and cataloguing works of art, hanging them himself in museums or on office walls, and struggling to find adequate storage space. In January 1976, a NASA supervisor went so far as to comment that: "Mr. Dean is far too valuable in other areas to spend his time on the relatively menial …jobs he is often burdened with in connection with the art program."(6) Dean placed a much higher value on the art collection, and immediately recommended that NASA officials either devote additional resources to the program, or get out of the art business and turn the existing collection over the National Air and Space Museum, "where it can be properly cared for."(7)

In January 1974 a new building for the National Air and Space Museum (NASM) was taking shape right across the street from NASA headquarters. Discussions regarding areas of cooperation were already underway between NASA officials and museum director Michael Collins, who had flown to the moon as a member of the Apollo 11 crew. Before the end of the year, the space agency had transferred its art collection to the NASM. Mike Collins succeeded in luring Jim Dean to the museum, as well.

The museum already maintained a small art collection, including portraits of aerospace heroes, an assortment of 18th and 19th century prints illustrating the early history of the balloon, an eclectic assortment of works portraying aspects of the history of aviation and a few recent prizes, including several Norman Rockwell paintings of NASA activity. With the acquisition of the NASA art, the museum was in possession of one of the world's great collections of art exploring aerospace themes. Jim Dean would continue to build the NASM collection as the museum's first curator of art. Following his retirement in 1980, other curators would follow in his footsteps, continuing to strengthen the role of art at the NASM. Over three decades after its arrival, however, the NASA art accession of 2,091 works still constitutes almost half of the NASM art collection.

(1) Stevenson's portrait is now in the collection of the National Air and Space Museum (1981-627)

(2) James E. Webb to Hiden Cox, March 16, 1962, memorandum in the NASA art historical collection, Aeronautics Division, National air and Space Museum. Webb's preference for a group portrait of the astronauts was apparently not heeded. In the end, Stevenson painted an individual portrait of John Glenn, which is also in the NASM collection (1963-398).

(3) Shelby Thompson, memorandum for the record, July 6, 1962, NASA art historical collection, NASA, Aeronautics Division.

(4) John Walker draft of a talk, March 5, 1965, copy in NASA Art historical collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

(5) James Dean, memorandum for the record, August 6, 1973, NASA art history collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

(6) Director of Planning and Media Development to Assistant Administrator for Public Affairs, January 24, 1974, NASA art history collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

(7) James Dean to the Assistant Administrator for Public Affairs, January 24, 1974, copy in NASA Art history Collection, Aeronautics Division, NASM.

Tom D. Crouch

Senior Curator, Aeronautics

National Air and Space Museum

Smithsonian Institution

July 26, 2007

Drawing, Felt Tip Pen on Paper

National Air and Space Museum
Transfer aisle, Vehicle Assembly Building, page 51.

In March 1962, James Webb, Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, suggested that artists be enlisted to document the historic effort to send the first human beings to the moon. John Walker, director of the National Gallery of Art, was among those who applauded the idea, urging that artists be encouraged "…not only to record the physical appearance of the strange new world which space technology is creating, but to edit, select and probe for the inner meaning and emotional impact of events which may change the destiny of our race."

Working together, James Dean, a young artist employed by the NASA Public Affairs office, and Dr. H. Lester Cooke, curator of paintings at the National Gallery of Art, created a program that dispatched artists to NASA facilities with an invitation to paint whatever interested them. The result was an extraordinary collection of works of art proving, as one observer noted, "that America produced not only scientists and engineers capable of shaping the destiny of our age, but also artists worthy to keep them company." Transferred to the National Air and Space Museum in 1975, the NASA art collection remains one of the most important elements of what has become perhaps the world's finest collection of aerospace themed art.

The spring of 1962 was a busy time for the men and women of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. On February 20, John H. Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth. For the first time since the launch of Sputnik 1 on October 4, 1957, the U.S. was positioned to match and exceed Soviet achievements in space. NASA was an agency with a mission -- to meet President John F. Kennedy's challenge of sending human beings to the moon and returning them safely to earth by the end of the decade. Within a year, three more Mercury astronauts would fly into orbit. Plans were falling into place for a follow-on series of two-man Gemini missions that would set the stage for the Apollo voyages to the moon.

In early March 1962, artist Bruce Stevenson brought his large portrait of Alan Shepard, the first American to fly in space, to NASA headquarters.(1) James E. Webb, the administrator of NASA, assumed that the artist was interested in painting a similar portrait of all seven of the Mercury astronauts. Instead, Webb voiced his preference for a group portrait that would emphasize "…the team effort and the togetherness that has characterized the first group of astronauts to be trained by this nation." More important, the episode convinced the administrator that "…we should consider in a deliberate way just what NASA should do in the field of fine arts to commemorate the …historic events" of the American space program.(2)

In addition to portraits, Webb wanted to encourage artists to capture the excitement and deeper meaning of space flight. He imagined "a nighttime scene showing the great amount of activity involved in the preparation of and countdown for launching," as well as paintings that portrayed activities in space. "The important thing," he concluded, "is to develop a policy on how we intend to treat this matter now and in the next several years and then to get down to the specifics of how we intend to implement this policy…." The first step, he suggested, was to consult with experts in the field, including the director of the National Gallery of Art, and the members of the Fine Arts Commission, the arbiters of architectural and artistic taste who passed judgment on the appearance of official buildings and monuments in the nation's capital.

Webb's memo of March 16, 1962 was the birth certificate of the NASA art program. Shelby Thompson, the director of the agency's Office of Educational Programs and Services, assigned James Dean, a young artist working as a special assistant in his office, to the project. On June 19, 1962 Thompson met with the Fine Arts Commission, requesting advice as to how "…NASA should develop a basis for use of paintings and sculptures to depict significant historical events and other activities in our program."(3)

David E. Finley, the chairman and former director of the National Gallery of Art, applauded the idea, and suggested that the agency should study the experience of the U.S. Air Force, which had amassed some 800 paintings since establishing an art program in 1954. He also introduced Thompson to Hereward Lester Cooke, curator of paintings at the National Gallery of Art.

An imposing bear of a man standing over six feet tall, Lester Cooke was a graduate of Yale and Oxford, with a Princeton PhD. The son of a physics professor and a veteran of the U.S. Army Air Forces, he was both fascinated by science and felt a personal connection to flight. On a professional level, Cooke had directed American participation in international art competitions and produced articles and illustrations for the National Geographic Magazine. He jumped at the chance to advise NASA on its art program.

While initially cautious with regard to the time the project might require of one of his chief curators, John Walker, director of the National Gallery, quickly became one of the most vocal supporters of the NASA art initiative. Certain that "the present space exploration effort by the United States will probably rank among the more important events in the history of mankind," Walker believed that "every possible method of documentation …be used." Artists should be expected "…not only to record the physical appearance of the strange new world which space technology is creating, but to edit, select and probe for the inner meaning and emotional impact of events which may change the destiny of our race." He urged quick action so that "the full flavor of the achievement …not be lost," and hoped that "the past held captive" in any paintings resulting from the effort "will prove to future generations that America produced not only scientists and engineers capable of shaping the destiny of our age, but also artists worthy to keep them company."(4)

Gordon Cooper, the last Mercury astronaut to fly, was scheduled to ride an Atlas rocket into orbit on May 15, 1963. That event would provide the ideal occasion for a test run of the plan Cooke and Dean evolved to launch the art program. In mid-February, Cooke provided Thompson with a list of the artists who should be invited to travel to Cape Canaveral to record their impressions of the event. Andrew Wyeth, whom the curator identified as "the top artist in the U.S. today," headed the list. When the time came, however, Andrew Wyeth did not go to the Cape for the Cooper launch, but his son Jamie would participate in the program during the Gemini and Apollo years.

The list of invited artists also included Peter Hurd, Andrew Wyeth's brother-in-law, who had served as a wartime artist with the Army Air Force; George Weymouth, whom Wyeth regarded as "the best of his pupils"; and John McCoy, another Wyeth associate. Cooke regarded the next man on the list, Robert McCall, who had been running the Air Force art program, as "America's top aero-space illustrator. Paul Calle and Robert Shore had both painted for the Air Force program. Mitchell Jamieson, who had run a unit of the Navy art program during WW II, rounded out the program. Alfred Blaustein was the only artist to turn down the invitation.

The procedures that would remain in place for more than a decade were given a trial run in the spring of 1963. The artists received an $800 commission, which had to cover any expenses incurred while visiting a NASA facility where they could paint whatever interested them. In return, they would present their finished pieces, and all of their sketches, to the space agency. The experiment was a success, and what might have been a one-time effort to dispatch artists to witness and record the Gordon Cooper flight provided the basis for an on-going, if small-scale, program. By the end of 1970, Jim Dean and Lester Cooke had dispatched 38 artists to Mercury, Gemini and Apollo launches and to other NASA facilities.

The art program became everything that Jim Webb had hoped it would be. NASA artists produced stunning works of art that documented the agency's step-by-step progress on the way to the moon. The early fruits of the program were presented in a lavishly illustrated book, Eyewitness to Space (New York: Abrams, 1971). Works from the collection illustrated NASA publications and were the basis for educational film strips aimed at school children. In 1965 and again in 1969 the National Gallery of Art mounted two major exhibitions of work from the NASA collection. The USIA sent a selection of NASA paintings overseas, while the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service created two exhibitions of NASA art that toured the nation.

"Since we …began," Dean noted in a reflection on the tenth anniversary of the program, the art initiative had resulted in a long string of positive "press interviews and reports, congressional inquiries, columns in the Congressional Record, [and] White House reports." The NASA effort, he continued, had directly inspired other government art programs. "The Department of the Interior (at least two programs), the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of the Army and even the Veterans Administration have, or are starting, art programs." While he could not take all of the credit, Dean insisted that "our success has encouraged other agencies to get involved and they have succeeded, too."(5)

For all of that, he noted, it was still necessary to "defend" the role of art in the space agency. Dean, with the assistance of Lester Cooke, had been a one-man show, handling the complex logistics of the program, receiving and cataloguing works of art, hanging them himself in museums or on office walls, and struggling to find adequate storage space. In January 1976, a NASA supervisor went so far as to comment that: "Mr. Dean is far too valuable in other areas to spend his time on the relatively menial …jobs he is often burdened with in connection with the art program."(6) Dean placed a much higher value on the art collection, and immediately recommended that NASA officials either devote additional resources to the program, or get out of the art business and turn the existing collection over the National Air and Space Museum, "where it can be properly cared for."(7)

In January 1974 a new building for the National Air and Space Museum (NASM) was taking shape right across the street from NASA headquarters. Discussions regarding areas of cooperation were already underway between NASA officials and museum director Michael Collins, who had flown to the moon as a member of the Apollo 11 crew. Before the end of the year, the space agency had transferred its art collection to the NASM. Mike Collins succeeded in luring Jim Dean to the museum, as well.

The museum already maintained a small art collection, including portraits of aerospace heroes, an assortment of 18th and 19th century prints illustrating the early history of the balloon, an eclectic assortment of works portraying aspects of the history of aviation and a few recent prizes, including several Norman Rockwell paintings of NASA activity. With the acquisition of the NASA art, the museum was in possession of one of the world's great collections of art exploring aerospace themes. Jim Dean would continue to build the NASM collection as the museum's first curator of art. Following his retirement in 1980, other curators would follow in his footsteps, continuing to strengthen the role of art at the NASM. Over three decades after its arrival, however, the NASA art accession of 2,091 works still constitutes almost half of the NASM art collection.

(1) Stevenson's portrait is now in the collection of the National Air and Space Museum (1981-627)

(2) James E. Webb to Hiden Cox, March 16, 1962, memorandum in the NASA art historical collection, Aeronautics Division, National air and Space Museum. Webb's preference for a group portrait of the astronauts was apparently not heeded. In the end, Stevenson painted an individual portrait of John Glenn, which is also in the NASM collection (1963-398).

(3) Shelby Thompson, memorandum for the record, July 6, 1962, NASA art historical collection, NASA, Aeronautics Division.

(4) John Walker draft of a talk, March 5, 1965, copy in NASA Art historical collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

(5) James Dean, memorandum for the record, August 6, 1973, NASA art history collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

(6) Director of Planning and Media Development to Assistant Administrator for Public Affairs, January 24, 1974, NASA art history collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

(7) James Dean to the Assistant Administrator for Public Affairs, January 24, 1974, copy in NASA Art history Collection, Aeronautics Division, NASM.

Tom D. Crouch

Senior Curator, Aeronautics

National Air and Space Museum

Smithsonian Institution

July 26, 2007

Print, Serigraph on Paper

National Air and Space Museum
Serigraph on Paper. black and silber screenprinted image. Vitruvius E, 1972 (from Lunar Transformations Series).

In March 1962, James Webb, Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, suggested that artists be enlisted to document the historic effort to send the first human beings to the moon. John Walker, director of the National Gallery of Art, was among those who applauded the idea, urging that artists be encouraged "…not only to record the physical appearance of the strange new world which space technology is creating, but to edit, select and probe for the inner meaning and emotional impact of events which may change the destiny of our race."

Working together, James Dean, a young artist employed by the NASA Public Affairs office, and Dr. H. Lester Cooke, curator of paintings at the National Gallery of Art, created a program that dispatched artists to NASA facilities with an invitation to paint whatever interested them. The result was an extraordinary collection of works of art proving, as one observer noted, "that America produced not only scientists and engineers capable of shaping the destiny of our age, but also artists worthy to keep them company." Transferred to the National Air and Space Museum in 1975, the NASA art collection remains one of the most important elements of what has become perhaps the world's finest collection of aerospace themed art.

The spring of 1962 was a busy time for the men and women of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. On February 20, John H. Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth. For the first time since the launch of Sputnik 1 on October 4, 1957, the U.S. was positioned to match and exceed Soviet achievements in space. NASA was an agency with a mission -- to meet President John F. Kennedy's challenge of sending human beings to the moon and returning them safely to earth by the end of the decade. Within a year, three more Mercury astronauts would fly into orbit. Plans were falling into place for a follow-on series of two-man Gemini missions that would set the stage for the Apollo voyages to the moon.

In early March 1962, artist Bruce Stevenson brought his large portrait of Alan Shepard, the first American to fly in space, to NASA headquarters.(1) James E. Webb, the administrator of NASA, assumed that the artist was interested in painting a similar portrait of all seven of the Mercury astronauts. Instead, Webb voiced his preference for a group portrait that would emphasize "…the team effort and the togetherness that has characterized the first group of astronauts to be trained by this nation." More important, the episode convinced the administrator that "…we should consider in a deliberate way just what NASA should do in the field of fine arts to commemorate the …historic events" of the American space program.(2)

In addition to portraits, Webb wanted to encourage artists to capture the excitement and deeper meaning of space flight. He imagined "a nighttime scene showing the great amount of activity involved in the preparation of and countdown for launching," as well as paintings that portrayed activities in space. "The important thing," he concluded, "is to develop a policy on how we intend to treat this matter now and in the next several years and then to get down to the specifics of how we intend to implement this policy…." The first step, he suggested, was to consult with experts in the field, including the director of the National Gallery of Art, and the members of the Fine Arts Commission, the arbiters of architectural and artistic taste who passed judgment on the appearance of official buildings and monuments in the nation's capital.

Webb's memo of March 16, 1962 was the birth certificate of the NASA art program. Shelby Thompson, the director of the agency's Office of Educational Programs and Services, assigned James Dean, a young artist working as a special assistant in his office, to the project. On June 19, 1962 Thompson met with the Fine Arts Commission, requesting advice as to how "…NASA should develop a basis for use of paintings and sculptures to depict significant historical events and other activities in our program."(3)

David E. Finley, the chairman and former director of the National Gallery of Art, applauded the idea, and suggested that the agency should study the experience of the U.S. Air Force, which had amassed some 800 paintings since establishing an art program in 1954. He also introduced Thompson to Hereward Lester Cooke, curator of paintings at the National Gallery of Art.

An imposing bear of a man standing over six feet tall, Lester Cooke was a graduate of Yale and Oxford, with a Princeton PhD. The son of a physics professor and a veteran of the U.S. Army Air Forces, he was both fascinated by science and felt a personal connection to flight. On a professional level, Cooke had directed American participation in international art competitions and produced articles and illustrations for the National Geographic Magazine. He jumped at the chance to advise NASA on its art program.

While initially cautious with regard to the time the project might require of one of his chief curators, John Walker, director of the National Gallery, quickly became one of the most vocal supporters of the NASA art initiative. Certain that "the present space exploration effort by the United States will probably rank among the more important events in the history of mankind," Walker believed that "every possible method of documentation …be used." Artists should be expected "…not only to record the physical appearance of the strange new world which space technology is creating, but to edit, select and probe for the inner meaning and emotional impact of events which may change the destiny of our race." He urged quick action so that "the full flavor of the achievement …not be lost," and hoped that "the past held captive" in any paintings resulting from the effort "will prove to future generations that America produced not only scientists and engineers capable of shaping the destiny of our age, but also artists worthy to keep them company."(4)

Gordon Cooper, the last Mercury astronaut to fly, was scheduled to ride an Atlas rocket into orbit on May 15, 1963. That event would provide the ideal occasion for a test run of the plan Cooke and Dean evolved to launch the art program. In mid-February, Cooke provided Thompson with a list of the artists who should be invited to travel to Cape Canaveral to record their impressions of the event. Andrew Wyeth, whom the curator identified as "the top artist in the U.S. today," headed the list. When the time came, however, Andrew Wyeth did not go to the Cape for the Cooper launch, but his son Jamie would participate in the program during the Gemini and Apollo years.

The list of invited artists also included Peter Hurd, Andrew Wyeth's brother-in-law, who had served as a wartime artist with the Army Air Force; George Weymouth, whom Wyeth regarded as "the best of his pupils"; and John McCoy, another Wyeth associate. Cooke regarded the next man on the list, Robert McCall, who had been running the Air Force art program, as "America's top aero-space illustrator. Paul Calle and Robert Shore had both painted for the Air Force program. Mitchell Jamieson, who had run a unit of the Navy art program during WW II, rounded out the program. Alfred Blaustein was the only artist to turn down the invitation.

The procedures that would remain in place for more than a decade were given a trial run in the spring of 1963. The artists received an $800 commission, which had to cover any expenses incurred while visiting a NASA facility where they could paint whatever interested them. In return, they would present their finished pieces, and all of their sketches, to the space agency. The experiment was a success, and what might have been a one-time effort to dispatch artists to witness and record the Gordon Cooper flight provided the basis for an on-going, if small-scale, program. By the end of 1970, Jim Dean and Lester Cooke had dispatched 38 artists to Mercury, Gemini and Apollo launches and to other NASA facilities.

The art program became everything that Jim Webb had hoped it would be. NASA artists produced stunning works of art that documented the agency's step-by-step progress on the way to the moon. The early fruits of the program were presented in a lavishly illustrated book, Eyewitness to Space (New York: Abrams, 1971). Works from the collection illustrated NASA publications and were the basis for educational film strips aimed at school children. In 1965 and again in 1969 the National Gallery of Art mounted two major exhibitions of work from the NASA collection. The USIA sent a selection of NASA paintings overseas, while the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service created two exhibitions of NASA art that toured the nation.

"Since we …began," Dean noted in a reflection on the tenth anniversary of the program, the art initiative had resulted in a long string of positive "press interviews and reports, congressional inquiries, columns in the Congressional Record, [and] White House reports." The NASA effort, he continued, had directly inspired other government art programs. "The Department of the Interior (at least two programs), the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of the Army and even the Veterans Administration have, or are starting, art programs." While he could not take all of the credit, Dean insisted that "our success has encouraged other agencies to get involved and they have succeeded, too."(5)

For all of that, he noted, it was still necessary to "defend" the role of art in the space agency. Dean, with the assistance of Lester Cooke, had been a one-man show, handling the complex logistics of the program, receiving and cataloguing works of art, hanging them himself in museums or on office walls, and struggling to find adequate storage space. In January 1976, a NASA supervisor went so far as to comment that: "Mr. Dean is far too valuable in other areas to spend his time on the relatively menial …jobs he is often burdened with in connection with the art program."(6) Dean placed a much higher value on the art collection, and immediately recommended that NASA officials either devote additional resources to the program, or get out of the art business and turn the existing collection over the National Air and Space Museum, "where it can be properly cared for."(7)

In January 1974 a new building for the National Air and Space Museum (NASM) was taking shape right across the street from NASA headquarters. Discussions regarding areas of cooperation were already underway between NASA officials and museum director Michael Collins, who had flown to the moon as a member of the Apollo 11 crew. Before the end of the year, the space agency had transferred its art collection to the NASM. Mike Collins succeeded in luring Jim Dean to the museum, as well.

The museum already maintained a small art collection, including portraits of aerospace heroes, an assortment of 18th and 19th century prints illustrating the early history of the balloon, an eclectic assortment of works portraying aspects of the history of aviation and a few recent prizes, including several Norman Rockwell paintings of NASA activity. With the acquisition of the NASA art, the museum was in possession of one of the world's great collections of art exploring aerospace themes. Jim Dean would continue to build the NASM collection as the museum's first curator of art. Following his retirement in 1980, other curators would follow in his footsteps, continuing to strengthen the role of art at the NASM. Over three decades after its arrival, however, the NASA art accession of 2,091 works still constitutes almost half of the NASM art collection.

(1) Stevenson's portrait is now in the collection of the National Air and Space Museum (1981-627)

(2) James E. Webb to Hiden Cox, March 16, 1962, memorandum in the NASA art historical collection, Aeronautics Division, National air and Space Museum. Webb's preference for a group portrait of the astronauts was apparently not heeded. In the end, Stevenson painted an individual portrait of John Glenn, which is also in the NASM collection (1963-398).

(3) Shelby Thompson, memorandum for the record, July 6, 1962, NASA art historical collection, NASA, Aeronautics Division.

(4) John Walker draft of a talk, March 5, 1965, copy in NASA Art historical collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

(5) James Dean, memorandum for the record, August 6, 1973, NASA art history collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

(6) Director of Planning and Media Development to Assistant Administrator for Public Affairs, January 24, 1974, NASA art history collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

(7) James Dean to the Assistant Administrator for Public Affairs, January 24, 1974, copy in NASA Art history Collection, Aeronautics Division, NASM.

Tom D. Crouch

Senior Curator, Aeronautics

National Air and Space Museum

Smithsonian Institution

July 26, 2007

One Giant Step

National Air and Space Museum
Black figurative woodblock print of astronaut with umbilical cord to orb.

In March 1962, James Webb, Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, suggested that artists be enlisted to document the historic effort to send the first human beings to the moon. John Walker, director of the National Gallery of Art, was among those who applauded the idea, urging that artists be encouraged "…not only to record the physical appearance of the strange new world which space technology is creating, but to edit, select and probe for the inner meaning and emotional impact of events which may change the destiny of our race."

Working together, James Dean, a young artist employed by the NASA Public Affairs office, and Dr. H. Lester Cooke, curator of paintings at the National Gallery of Art, created a program that dispatched artists to NASA facilities with an invitation to paint whatever interested them. The result was an extraordinary collection of works of art proving, as one observer noted, "that America produced not only scientists and engineers capable of shaping the destiny of our age, but also artists worthy to keep them company." Transferred to the National Air and Space Museum in 1975, the NASA art collection remains one of the most important elements of what has become perhaps the world's finest collection of aerospace themed art.

The spring of 1962 was a busy time for the men and women of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. On February 20, John H. Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth. For the first time since the launch of Sputnik 1 on October 4, 1957, the U.S. was positioned to match and exceed Soviet achievements in space. NASA was an agency with a mission -- to meet President John F. Kennedy's challenge of sending human beings to the moon and returning them safely to earth by the end of the decade. Within a year, three more Mercury astronauts would fly into orbit. Plans were falling into place for a follow-on series of two-man Gemini missions that would set the stage for the Apollo voyages to the moon.

In early March 1962, artist Bruce Stevenson brought his large portrait of Alan Shepard, the first American to fly in space, to NASA headquarters.(1) James E. Webb, the administrator of NASA, assumed that the artist was interested in painting a similar portrait of all seven of the Mercury astronauts. Instead, Webb voiced his preference for a group portrait that would emphasize "…the team effort and the togetherness that has characterized the first group of astronauts to be trained by this nation." More important, the episode convinced the administrator that "…we should consider in a deliberate way just what NASA should do in the field of fine arts to commemorate the …historic events" of the American space program.(2)

In addition to portraits, Webb wanted to encourage artists to capture the excitement and deeper meaning of space flight. He imagined "a nighttime scene showing the great amount of activity involved in the preparation of and countdown for launching," as well as paintings that portrayed activities in space. "The important thing," he concluded, "is to develop a policy on how we intend to treat this matter now and in the next several years and then to get down to the specifics of how we intend to implement this policy…." The first step, he suggested, was to consult with experts in the field, including the director of the National Gallery of Art, and the members of the Fine Arts Commission, the arbiters of architectural and artistic taste who passed judgment on the appearance of official buildings and monuments in the nation's capital.

Webb's memo of March 16, 1962 was the birth certificate of the NASA art program. Shelby Thompson, the director of the agency's Office of Educational Programs and Services, assigned James Dean, a young artist working as a special assistant in his office, to the project. On June 19, 1962 Thompson met with the Fine Arts Commission, requesting advice as to how "…NASA should develop a basis for use of paintings and sculptures to depict significant historical events and other activities in our program."(3)

David E. Finley, the chairman and former director of the National Gallery of Art, applauded the idea, and suggested that the agency should study the experience of the U.S. Air Force, which had amassed some 800 paintings since establishing an art program in 1954. He also introduced Thompson to Hereward Lester Cooke, curator of paintings at the National Gallery of Art.

An imposing bear of a man standing over six feet tall, Lester Cooke was a graduate of Yale and Oxford, with a Princeton PhD. The son of a physics professor and a veteran of the U.S. Army Air Forces, he was both fascinated by science and felt a personal connection to flight. On a professional level, Cooke had directed American participation in international art competitions and produced articles and illustrations for the National Geographic Magazine. He jumped at the chance to advise NASA on its art program.

While initially cautious with regard to the time the project might require of one of his chief curators, John Walker, director of the National Gallery, quickly became one of the most vocal supporters of the NASA art initiative. Certain that "the present space exploration effort by the United States will probably rank among the more important events in the history of mankind," Walker believed that "every possible method of documentation …be used." Artists should be expected "…not only to record the physical appearance of the strange new world which space technology is creating, but to edit, select and probe for the inner meaning and emotional impact of events which may change the destiny of our race." He urged quick action so that "the full flavor of the achievement …not be lost," and hoped that "the past held captive" in any paintings resulting from the effort "will prove to future generations that America produced not only scientists and engineers capable of shaping the destiny of our age, but also artists worthy to keep them company."(4)

Gordon Cooper, the last Mercury astronaut to fly, was scheduled to ride an Atlas rocket into orbit on May 15, 1963. That event would provide the ideal occasion for a test run of the plan Cooke and Dean evolved to launch the art program. In mid-February, Cooke provided Thompson with a list of the artists who should be invited to travel to Cape Canaveral to record their impressions of the event. Andrew Wyeth, whom the curator identified as "the top artist in the U.S. today," headed the list. When the time came, however, Andrew Wyeth did not go to the Cape for the Cooper launch, but his son Jamie would participate in the program during the Gemini and Apollo years.

The list of invited artists also included Peter Hurd, Andrew Wyeth's brother-in-law, who had served as a wartime artist with the Army Air Force; George Weymouth, whom Wyeth regarded as "the best of his pupils"; and John McCoy, another Wyeth associate. Cooke regarded the next man on the list, Robert McCall, who had been running the Air Force art program, as "America's top aero-space illustrator. Paul Calle and Robert Shore had both painted for the Air Force program. Mitchell Jamieson, who had run a unit of the Navy art program during WW II, rounded out the program. Alfred Blaustein was the only artist to turn down the invitation.

The procedures that would remain in place for more than a decade were given a trial run in the spring of 1963. The artists received an $800 commission, which had to cover any expenses incurred while visiting a NASA facility where they could paint whatever interested them. In return, they would present their finished pieces, and all of their sketches, to the space agency. The experiment was a success, and what might have been a one-time effort to dispatch artists to witness and record the Gordon Cooper flight provided the basis for an on-going, if small-scale, program. By the end of 1970, Jim Dean and Lester Cooke had dispatched 38 artists to Mercury, Gemini and Apollo launches and to other NASA facilities.

The art program became everything that Jim Webb had hoped it would be. NASA artists produced stunning works of art that documented the agency's step-by-step progress on the way to the moon. The early fruits of the program were presented in a lavishly illustrated book, Eyewitness to Space (New York: Abrams, 1971). Works from the collection illustrated NASA publications and were the basis for educational film strips aimed at school children. In 1965 and again in 1969 the National Gallery of Art mounted two major exhibitions of work from the NASA collection. The USIA sent a selection of NASA paintings overseas, while the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service created two exhibitions of NASA art that toured the nation.

"Since we …began," Dean noted in a reflection on the tenth anniversary of the program, the art initiative had resulted in a long string of positive "press interviews and reports, congressional inquiries, columns in the Congressional Record, [and] White House reports." The NASA effort, he continued, had directly inspired other government art programs. "The Department of the Interior (at least two programs), the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of the Army and even the Veterans Administration have, or are starting, art programs." While he could not take all of the credit, Dean insisted that "our success has encouraged other agencies to get involved and they have succeeded, too."(5)

For all of that, he noted, it was still necessary to "defend" the role of art in the space agency. Dean, with the assistance of Lester Cooke, had been a one-man show, handling the complex logistics of the program, receiving and cataloguing works of art, hanging them himself in museums or on office walls, and struggling to find adequate storage space. In January 1976, a NASA supervisor went so far as to comment that: "Mr. Dean is far too valuable in other areas to spend his time on the relatively menial …jobs he is often burdened with in connection with the art program."(6) Dean placed a much higher value on the art collection, and immediately recommended that NASA officials either devote additional resources to the program, or get out of the art business and turn the existing collection over the National Air and Space Museum, "where it can be properly cared for."(7)

In January 1974 a new building for the National Air and Space Museum (NASM) was taking shape right across the street from NASA headquarters. Discussions regarding areas of cooperation were already underway between NASA officials and museum director Michael Collins, who had flown to the moon as a member of the Apollo 11 crew. Before the end of the year, the space agency had transferred its art collection to the NASM. Mike Collins succeeded in luring Jim Dean to the museum, as well.

The museum already maintained a small art collection, including portraits of aerospace heroes, an assortment of 18th and 19th century prints illustrating the early history of the balloon, an eclectic assortment of works portraying aspects of the history of aviation and a few recent prizes, including several Norman Rockwell paintings of NASA activity. With the acquisition of the NASA art, the museum was in possession of one of the world's great collections of art exploring aerospace themes. Jim Dean would continue to build the NASM collection as the museum's first curator of art. Following his retirement in 1980, other curators would follow in his footsteps, continuing to strengthen the role of art at the NASM. Over three decades after its arrival, however, the NASA art accession of 2,091 works still constitutes almost half of the NASM art collection.

(1) Stevenson's portrait is now in the collection of the National Air and Space Museum (1981-627)

(2) James E. Webb to Hiden Cox, March 16, 1962, memorandum in the NASA art historical collection, Aeronautics Division, National air and Space Museum. Webb's preference for a group portrait of the astronauts was apparently not heeded. In the end, Stevenson painted an individual portrait of John Glenn, which is also in the NASM collection (1963-398).

(3) Shelby Thompson, memorandum for the record, July 6, 1962, NASA art historical collection, NASA, Aeronautics Division.

(4) John Walker draft of a talk, March 5, 1965, copy in NASA Art historical collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

(5) James Dean, memorandum for the record, August 6, 1973, NASA art history collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

(6) Director of Planning and Media Development to Assistant Administrator for Public Affairs, January 24, 1974, NASA art history collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

(7) James Dean to the Assistant Administrator for Public Affairs, January 24, 1974, copy in NASA Art history Collection, Aeronautics Division, NASM.

Tom D. Crouch

Senior Curator, Aeronautics

National Air and Space Museum

Smithsonian Institution

July 26, 2007

Radar at Goldstone

National Air and Space Museum
Goldstone, Nov 10, 1971. A sketch of the radio telescope at Goldstone, California. Along the right edge are pen scratch marks and ink blots.

In March 1962, James Webb, Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, suggested that artists be enlisted to document the historic effort to send the first human beings to the moon. John Walker, director of the National Gallery of Art, was among those who applauded the idea, urging that artists be encouraged "…not only to record the physical appearance of the strange new world which space technology is creating, but to edit, select and probe for the inner meaning and emotional impact of events which may change the destiny of our race."

Working together, James Dean, a young artist employed by the NASA Public Affairs office, and Dr. H. Lester Cooke, curator of paintings at the National Gallery of Art, created a program that dispatched artists to NASA facilities with an invitation to paint whatever interested them. The result was an extraordinary collection of works of art proving, as one observer noted, "that America produced not only scientists and engineers capable of shaping the destiny of our age, but also artists worthy to keep them company." Transferred to the National Air and Space Museum in 1975, the NASA art collection remains one of the most important elements of what has become perhaps the world's finest collection of aerospace themed art.

The spring of 1962 was a busy time for the men and women of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. On February 20, John H. Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth. For the first time since the launch of Sputnik 1 on October 4, 1957, the U.S. was positioned to match and exceed Soviet achievements in space. NASA was an agency with a mission -- to meet President John F. Kennedy's challenge of sending human beings to the moon and returning them safely to earth by the end of the decade. Within a year, three more Mercury astronauts would fly into orbit. Plans were falling into place for a follow-on series of two-man Gemini missions that would set the stage for the Apollo voyages to the moon.

In early March 1962, artist Bruce Stevenson brought his large portrait of Alan Shepard, the first American to fly in space, to NASA headquarters.(1) James E. Webb, the administrator of NASA, assumed that the artist was interested in painting a similar portrait of all seven of the Mercury astronauts. Instead, Webb voiced his preference for a group portrait that would emphasize "…the team effort and the togetherness that has characterized the first group of astronauts to be trained by this nation." More important, the episode convinced the administrator that "…we should consider in a deliberate way just what NASA should do in the field of fine arts to commemorate the …historic events" of the American space program.(2)

In addition to portraits, Webb wanted to encourage artists to capture the excitement and deeper meaning of space flight. He imagined "a nighttime scene showing the great amount of activity involved in the preparation of and countdown for launching," as well as paintings that portrayed activities in space. "The important thing," he concluded, "is to develop a policy on how we intend to treat this matter now and in the next several years and then to get down to the specifics of how we intend to implement this policy…." The first step, he suggested, was to consult with experts in the field, including the director of the National Gallery of Art, and the members of the Fine Arts Commission, the arbiters of architectural and artistic taste who passed judgment on the appearance of official buildings and monuments in the nation's capital.

Webb's memo of March 16, 1962 was the birth certificate of the NASA art program. Shelby Thompson, the director of the agency's Office of Educational Programs and Services, assigned James Dean, a young artist working as a special assistant in his office, to the project. On June 19, 1962 Thompson met with the Fine Arts Commission, requesting advice as to how "…NASA should develop a basis for use of paintings and sculptures to depict significant historical events and other activities in our program."(3)

David E. Finley, the chairman and former director of the National Gallery of Art, applauded the idea, and suggested that the agency should study the experience of the U.S. Air Force, which had amassed some 800 paintings since establishing an art program in 1954. He also introduced Thompson to Hereward Lester Cooke, curator of paintings at the National Gallery of Art.

An imposing bear of a man standing over six feet tall, Lester Cooke was a graduate of Yale and Oxford, with a Princeton PhD. The son of a physics professor and a veteran of the U.S. Army Air Forces, he was both fascinated by science and felt a personal connection to flight. On a professional level, Cooke had directed American participation in international art competitions and produced articles and illustrations for the National Geographic Magazine. He jumped at the chance to advise NASA on its art program.

While initially cautious with regard to the time the project might require of one of his chief curators, John Walker, director of the National Gallery, quickly became one of the most vocal supporters of the NASA art initiative. Certain that "the present space exploration effort by the United States will probably rank among the more important events in the history of mankind," Walker believed that "every possible method of documentation …be used." Artists should be expected "…not only to record the physical appearance of the strange new world which space technology is creating, but to edit, select and probe for the inner meaning and emotional impact of events which may change the destiny of our race." He urged quick action so that "the full flavor of the achievement …not be lost," and hoped that "the past held captive" in any paintings resulting from the effort "will prove to future generations that America produced not only scientists and engineers capable of shaping the destiny of our age, but also artists worthy to keep them company."(4)

Gordon Cooper, the last Mercury astronaut to fly, was scheduled to ride an Atlas rocket into orbit on May 15, 1963. That event would provide the ideal occasion for a test run of the plan Cooke and Dean evolved to launch the art program. In mid-February, Cooke provided Thompson with a list of the artists who should be invited to travel to Cape Canaveral to record their impressions of the event. Andrew Wyeth, whom the curator identified as "the top artist in the U.S. today," headed the list. When the time came, however, Andrew Wyeth did not go to the Cape for the Cooper launch, but his son Jamie would participate in the program during the Gemini and Apollo years.

The list of invited artists also included Peter Hurd, Andrew Wyeth's brother-in-law, who had served as a wartime artist with the Army Air Force; George Weymouth, whom Wyeth regarded as "the best of his pupils"; and John McCoy, another Wyeth associate. Cooke regarded the next man on the list, Robert McCall, who had been running the Air Force art program, as "America's top aero-space illustrator. Paul Calle and Robert Shore had both painted for the Air Force program. Mitchell Jamieson, who had run a unit of the Navy art program during WW II, rounded out the program. Alfred Blaustein was the only artist to turn down the invitation.

The procedures that would remain in place for more than a decade were given a trial run in the spring of 1963. The artists received an $800 commission, which had to cover any expenses incurred while visiting a NASA facility where they could paint whatever interested them. In return, they would present their finished pieces, and all of their sketches, to the space agency. The experiment was a success, and what might have been a one-time effort to dispatch artists to witness and record the Gordon Cooper flight provided the basis for an on-going, if small-scale, program. By the end of 1970, Jim Dean and Lester Cooke had dispatched 38 artists to Mercury, Gemini and Apollo launches and to other NASA facilities.

The art program became everything that Jim Webb had hoped it would be. NASA artists produced stunning works of art that documented the agency's step-by-step progress on the way to the moon. The early fruits of the program were presented in a lavishly illustrated book, Eyewitness to Space (New York: Abrams, 1971). Works from the collection illustrated NASA publications and were the basis for educational film strips aimed at school children. In 1965 and again in 1969 the National Gallery of Art mounted two major exhibitions of work from the NASA collection. The USIA sent a selection of NASA paintings overseas, while the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service created two exhibitions of NASA art that toured the nation.

"Since we …began," Dean noted in a reflection on the tenth anniversary of the program, the art initiative had resulted in a long string of positive "press interviews and reports, congressional inquiries, columns in the Congressional Record, [and] White House reports." The NASA effort, he continued, had directly inspired other government art programs. "The Department of the Interior (at least two programs), the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of the Army and even the Veterans Administration have, or are starting, art programs." While he could not take all of the credit, Dean insisted that "our success has encouraged other agencies to get involved and they have succeeded, too."(5)

For all of that, he noted, it was still necessary to "defend" the role of art in the space agency. Dean, with the assistance of Lester Cooke, had been a one-man show, handling the complex logistics of the program, receiving and cataloguing works of art, hanging them himself in museums or on office walls, and struggling to find adequate storage space. In January 1976, a NASA supervisor went so far as to comment that: "Mr. Dean is far too valuable in other areas to spend his time on the relatively menial …jobs he is often burdened with in connection with the art program."(6) Dean placed a much higher value on the art collection, and immediately recommended that NASA officials either devote additional resources to the program, or get out of the art business and turn the existing collection over the National Air and Space Museum, "where it can be properly cared for."(7)

In January 1974 a new building for the National Air and Space Museum (NASM) was taking shape right across the street from NASA headquarters. Discussions regarding areas of cooperation were already underway between NASA officials and museum director Michael Collins, who had flown to the moon as a member of the Apollo 11 crew. Before the end of the year, the space agency had transferred its art collection to the NASM. Mike Collins succeeded in luring Jim Dean to the museum, as well.

The museum already maintained a small art collection, including portraits of aerospace heroes, an assortment of 18th and 19th century prints illustrating the early history of the balloon, an eclectic assortment of works portraying aspects of the history of aviation and a few recent prizes, including several Norman Rockwell paintings of NASA activity. With the acquisition of the NASA art, the museum was in possession of one of the world's great collections of art exploring aerospace themes. Jim Dean would continue to build the NASM collection as the museum's first curator of art. Following his retirement in 1980, other curators would follow in his footsteps, continuing to strengthen the role of art at the NASM. Over three decades after its arrival, however, the NASA art accession of 2,091 works still constitutes almost half of the NASM art collection.

(1) Stevenson's portrait is now in the collection of the National Air and Space Museum (1981-627)

(2) James E. Webb to Hiden Cox, March 16, 1962, memorandum in the NASA art historical collection, Aeronautics Division, National air and Space Museum. Webb's preference for a group portrait of the astronauts was apparently not heeded. In the end, Stevenson painted an individual portrait of John Glenn, which is also in the NASM collection (1963-398).

(3) Shelby Thompson, memorandum for the record, July 6, 1962, NASA art historical collection, NASA, Aeronautics Division.

(4) John Walker draft of a talk, March 5, 1965, copy in NASA Art historical collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

(5) James Dean, memorandum for the record, August 6, 1973, NASA art history collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

(6) Director of Planning and Media Development to Assistant Administrator for Public Affairs, January 24, 1974, NASA art history collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

(7) James Dean to the Assistant Administrator for Public Affairs, January 24, 1974, copy in NASA Art history Collection, Aeronautics Division, NASM.

Tom D. Crouch

Senior Curator, Aeronautics

National Air and Space Museum

Smithsonian Institution

July 26, 2007

Drawing, Pen and Ink on Paper

National Air and Space Museum
Untitled sketch of a man from the neck up who appears to be in thought. His eyes look closed, and his right hand is covering this mouth and cheek. The top of his head is not drawn. Ink scribbles in the upper left corner.

Double-sided, A19750884000 on reverse.

In March 1962, James Webb, Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, suggested that artists be enlisted to document the historic effort to send the first human beings to the moon. John Walker, director of the National Gallery of Art, was among those who applauded the idea, urging that artists be encouraged "…not only to record the physical appearance of the strange new world which space technology is creating, but to edit, select and probe for the inner meaning and emotional impact of events which may change the destiny of our race."

Working together, James Dean, a young artist employed by the NASA Public Affairs office, and Dr. H. Lester Cooke, curator of paintings at the National Gallery of Art, created a program that dispatched artists to NASA facilities with an invitation to paint whatever interested them. The result was an extraordinary collection of works of art proving, as one observer noted, "that America produced not only scientists and engineers capable of shaping the destiny of our age, but also artists worthy to keep them company." Transferred to the National Air and Space Museum in 1975, the NASA art collection remains one of the most important elements of what has become perhaps the world's finest collection of aerospace themed art.

The spring of 1962 was a busy time for the men and women of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. On February 20, John H. Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth. For the first time since the launch of Sputnik 1 on October 4, 1957, the U.S. was positioned to match and exceed Soviet achievements in space. NASA was an agency with a mission -- to meet President John F. Kennedy's challenge of sending human beings to the moon and returning them safely to earth by the end of the decade. Within a year, three more Mercury astronauts would fly into orbit. Plans were falling into place for a follow-on series of two-man Gemini missions that would set the stage for the Apollo voyages to the moon.

In early March 1962, artist Bruce Stevenson brought his large portrait of Alan Shepard, the first American to fly in space, to NASA headquarters.(1) James E. Webb, the administrator of NASA, assumed that the artist was interested in painting a similar portrait of all seven of the Mercury astronauts. Instead, Webb voiced his preference for a group portrait that would emphasize "…the team effort and the togetherness that has characterized the first group of astronauts to be trained by this nation." More important, the episode convinced the administrator that "…we should consider in a deliberate way just what NASA should do in the field of fine arts to commemorate the …historic events" of the American space program.(2)

In addition to portraits, Webb wanted to encourage artists to capture the excitement and deeper meaning of space flight. He imagined "a nighttime scene showing the great amount of activity involved in the preparation of and countdown for launching," as well as paintings that portrayed activities in space. "The important thing," he concluded, "is to develop a policy on how we intend to treat this matter now and in the next several years and then to get down to the specifics of how we intend to implement this policy…." The first step, he suggested, was to consult with experts in the field, including the director of the National Gallery of Art, and the members of the Fine Arts Commission, the arbiters of architectural and artistic taste who passed judgment on the appearance of official buildings and monuments in the nation's capital.

Webb's memo of March 16, 1962 was the birth certificate of the NASA art program. Shelby Thompson, the director of the agency's Office of Educational Programs and Services, assigned James Dean, a young artist working as a special assistant in his office, to the project. On June 19, 1962 Thompson met with the Fine Arts Commission, requesting advice as to how "…NASA should develop a basis for use of paintings and sculptures to depict significant historical events and other activities in our program."(3)

David E. Finley, the chairman and former director of the National Gallery of Art, applauded the idea, and suggested that the agency should study the experience of the U.S. Air Force, which had amassed some 800 paintings since establishing an art program in 1954. He also introduced Thompson to Hereward Lester Cooke, curator of paintings at the National Gallery of Art.

An imposing bear of a man standing over six feet tall, Lester Cooke was a graduate of Yale and Oxford, with a Princeton PhD. The son of a physics professor and a veteran of the U.S. Army Air Forces, he was both fascinated by science and felt a personal connection to flight. On a professional level, Cooke had directed American participation in international art competitions and produced articles and illustrations for the National Geographic Magazine. He jumped at the chance to advise NASA on its art program.

While initially cautious with regard to the time the project might require of one of his chief curators, John Walker, director of the National Gallery, quickly became one of the most vocal supporters of the NASA art initiative. Certain that "the present space exploration effort by the United States will probably rank among the more important events in the history of mankind," Walker believed that "every possible method of documentation …be used." Artists should be expected "…not only to record the physical appearance of the strange new world which space technology is creating, but to edit, select and probe for the inner meaning and emotional impact of events which may change the destiny of our race." He urged quick action so that "the full flavor of the achievement …not be lost," and hoped that "the past held captive" in any paintings resulting from the effort "will prove to future generations that America produced not only scientists and engineers capable of shaping the destiny of our age, but also artists worthy to keep them company."(4)

Gordon Cooper, the last Mercury astronaut to fly, was scheduled to ride an Atlas rocket into orbit on May 15, 1963. That event would provide the ideal occasion for a test run of the plan Cooke and Dean evolved to launch the art program. In mid-February, Cooke provided Thompson with a list of the artists who should be invited to travel to Cape Canaveral to record their impressions of the event. Andrew Wyeth, whom the curator identified as "the top artist in the U.S. today," headed the list. When the time came, however, Andrew Wyeth did not go to the Cape for the Cooper launch, but his son Jamie would participate in the program during the Gemini and Apollo years.

The list of invited artists also included Peter Hurd, Andrew Wyeth's brother-in-law, who had served as a wartime artist with the Army Air Force; George Weymouth, whom Wyeth regarded as "the best of his pupils"; and John McCoy, another Wyeth associate. Cooke regarded the next man on the list, Robert McCall, who had been running the Air Force art program, as "America's top aero-space illustrator. Paul Calle and Robert Shore had both painted for the Air Force program. Mitchell Jamieson, who had run a unit of the Navy art program during WW II, rounded out the program. Alfred Blaustein was the only artist to turn down the invitation.

The procedures that would remain in place for more than a decade were given a trial run in the spring of 1963. The artists received an $800 commission, which had to cover any expenses incurred while visiting a NASA facility where they could paint whatever interested them. In return, they would present their finished pieces, and all of their sketches, to the space agency. The experiment was a success, and what might have been a one-time effort to dispatch artists to witness and record the Gordon Cooper flight provided the basis for an on-going, if small-scale, program. By the end of 1970, Jim Dean and Lester Cooke had dispatched 38 artists to Mercury, Gemini and Apollo launches and to other NASA facilities.

The art program became everything that Jim Webb had hoped it would be. NASA artists produced stunning works of art that documented the agency's step-by-step progress on the way to the moon. The early fruits of the program were presented in a lavishly illustrated book, Eyewitness to Space (New York: Abrams, 1971). Works from the collection illustrated NASA publications and were the basis for educational film strips aimed at school children. In 1965 and again in 1969 the National Gallery of Art mounted two major exhibitions of work from the NASA collection. The USIA sent a selection of NASA paintings overseas, while the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service created two exhibitions of NASA art that toured the nation.

"Since we …began," Dean noted in a reflection on the tenth anniversary of the program, the art initiative had resulted in a long string of positive "press interviews and reports, congressional inquiries, columns in the Congressional Record, [and] White House reports." The NASA effort, he continued, had directly inspired other government art programs. "The Department of the Interior (at least two programs), the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of the Army and even the Veterans Administration have, or are starting, art programs." While he could not take all of the credit, Dean insisted that "our success has encouraged other agencies to get involved and they have succeeded, too."(5)

For all of that, he noted, it was still necessary to "defend" the role of art in the space agency. Dean, with the assistance of Lester Cooke, had been a one-man show, handling the complex logistics of the program, receiving and cataloguing works of art, hanging them himself in museums or on office walls, and struggling to find adequate storage space. In January 1976, a NASA supervisor went so far as to comment that: "Mr. Dean is far too valuable in other areas to spend his time on the relatively menial …jobs he is often burdened with in connection with the art program."(6) Dean placed a much higher value on the art collection, and immediately recommended that NASA officials either devote additional resources to the program, or get out of the art business and turn the existing collection over the National Air and Space Museum, "where it can be properly cared for."(7)

In January 1974 a new building for the National Air and Space Museum (NASM) was taking shape right across the street from NASA headquarters. Discussions regarding areas of cooperation were already underway between NASA officials and museum director Michael Collins, who had flown to the moon as a member of the Apollo 11 crew. Before the end of the year, the space agency had transferred its art collection to the NASM. Mike Collins succeeded in luring Jim Dean to the museum, as well.

The museum already maintained a small art collection, including portraits of aerospace heroes, an assortment of 18th and 19th century prints illustrating the early history of the balloon, an eclectic assortment of works portraying aspects of the history of aviation and a few recent prizes, including several Norman Rockwell paintings of NASA activity. With the acquisition of the NASA art, the museum was in possession of one of the world's great collections of art exploring aerospace themes. Jim Dean would continue to build the NASM collection as the museum's first curator of art. Following his retirement in 1980, other curators would follow in his footsteps, continuing to strengthen the role of art at the NASM. Over three decades after its arrival, however, the NASA art accession of 2,091 works still constitutes almost half of the NASM art collection.

(1) Stevenson's portrait is now in the collection of the National Air and Space Museum (1981-627)

(2) James E. Webb to Hiden Cox, March 16, 1962, memorandum in the NASA art historical collection, Aeronautics Division, National air and Space Museum. Webb's preference for a group portrait of the astronauts was apparently not heeded. In the end, Stevenson painted an individual portrait of John Glenn, which is also in the NASM collection (1963-398).

(3) Shelby Thompson, memorandum for the record, July 6, 1962, NASA art historical collection, NASA, Aeronautics Division.

(4) John Walker draft of a talk, March 5, 1965, copy in NASA Art historical collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

(5) James Dean, memorandum for the record, August 6, 1973, NASA art history collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

(6) Director of Planning and Media Development to Assistant Administrator for Public Affairs, January 24, 1974, NASA art history collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

(7) James Dean to the Assistant Administrator for Public Affairs, January 24, 1974, copy in NASA Art history Collection, Aeronautics Division, NASM.

Tom D. Crouch

Senior Curator, Aeronautics

National Air and Space Museum

Smithsonian Institution

July 26, 2007

The Apollo Armor

National Air and Space Museum
Watercolor painting on paper depicting The Apollo Armor. A realistically detailed depiction of a rescue vehicle on Pad 39A. The orangish-brown vehicle takes up the majority of the space, and two other such vehicles can be seen, one each on the left and right. The main vehicle has a white number three in the center, the one on the left has a white number one, and the one on the right has a white number two. The main vehicle also has a license plate on the lower right that reads "HE-704-021." A red gantry and black and white rocket are visible in the upper left of the scene.

In March 1962, James Webb, Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, suggested that artists be enlisted to document the historic effort to send the first human beings to the moon. John Walker, director of the National Gallery of Art, was among those who applauded the idea, urging that artists be encouraged "…not only to record the physical appearance of the strange new world which space technology is creating, but to edit, select and probe for the inner meaning and emotional impact of events which may change the destiny of our race."

Working together, James Dean, a young artist employed by the NASA Public Affairs office, and Dr. H. Lester Cooke, curator of paintings at the National Gallery of Art, created a program that dispatched artists to NASA facilities with an invitation to paint whatever interested them. The result was an extraordinary collection of works of art proving, as one observer noted, "that America produced not only scientists and engineers capable of shaping the destiny of our age, but also artists worthy to keep them company." Transferred to the National Air and Space Museum in 1975, the NASA art collection remains one of the most important elements of what has become perhaps the world's finest collection of aerospace themed art.

The spring of 1962 was a busy time for the men and women of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. On February 20, John H. Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth. For the first time since the launch of Sputnik 1 on October 4, 1957, the U.S. was positioned to match and exceed Soviet achievements in space. NASA was an agency with a mission -- to meet President John F. Kennedy's challenge of sending human beings to the moon and returning them safely to earth by the end of the decade. Within a year, three more Mercury astronauts would fly into orbit. Plans were falling into place for a follow-on series of two-man Gemini missions that would set the stage for the Apollo voyages to the moon.

In early March 1962, artist Bruce Stevenson brought his large portrait of Alan Shepard, the first American to fly in space, to NASA headquarters.(1) James E. Webb, the administrator of NASA, assumed that the artist was interested in painting a similar portrait of all seven of the Mercury astronauts. Instead, Webb voiced his preference for a group portrait that would emphasize "…the team effort and the togetherness that has characterized the first group of astronauts to be trained by this nation." More important, the episode convinced the administrator that "…we should consider in a deliberate way just what NASA should do in the field of fine arts to commemorate the …historic events" of the American space program.(2)

In addition to portraits, Webb wanted to encourage artists to capture the excitement and deeper meaning of space flight. He imagined "a nighttime scene showing the great amount of activity involved in the preparation of and countdown for launching," as well as paintings that portrayed activities in space. "The important thing," he concluded, "is to develop a policy on how we intend to treat this matter now and in the next several years and then to get down to the specifics of how we intend to implement this policy…." The first step, he suggested, was to consult with experts in the field, including the director of the National Gallery of Art, and the members of the Fine Arts Commission, the arbiters of architectural and artistic taste who passed judgment on the appearance of official buildings and monuments in the nation's capital.

Webb's memo of March 16, 1962 was the birth certificate of the NASA art program. Shelby Thompson, the director of the agency's Office of Educational Programs and Services, assigned James Dean, a young artist working as a special assistant in his office, to the project. On June 19, 1962 Thompson met with the Fine Arts Commission, requesting advice as to how "…NASA should develop a basis for use of paintings and sculptures to depict significant historical events and other activities in our program."(3)

David E. Finley, the chairman and former director of the National Gallery of Art, applauded the idea, and suggested that the agency should study the experience of the U.S. Air Force, which had amassed some 800 paintings since establishing an art program in 1954. He also introduced Thompson to Hereward Lester Cooke, curator of paintings at the National Gallery of Art.

An imposing bear of a man standing over six feet tall, Lester Cooke was a graduate of Yale and Oxford, with a Princeton PhD. The son of a physics professor and a veteran of the U.S. Army Air Forces, he was both fascinated by science and felt a personal connection to flight. On a professional level, Cooke had directed American participation in international art competitions and produced articles and illustrations for the National Geographic Magazine. He jumped at the chance to advise NASA on its art program.

While initially cautious with regard to the time the project might require of one of his chief curators, John Walker, director of the National Gallery, quickly became one of the most vocal supporters of the NASA art initiative. Certain that "the present space exploration effort by the United States will probably rank among the more important events in the history of mankind," Walker believed that "every possible method of documentation …be used." Artists should be expected "…not only to record the physical appearance of the strange new world which space technology is creating, but to edit, select and probe for the inner meaning and emotional impact of events which may change the destiny of our race." He urged quick action so that "the full flavor of the achievement …not be lost," and hoped that "the past held captive" in any paintings resulting from the effort "will prove to future generations that America produced not only scientists and engineers capable of shaping the destiny of our age, but also artists worthy to keep them company."(4)

Gordon Cooper, the last Mercury astronaut to fly, was scheduled to ride an Atlas rocket into orbit on May 15, 1963. That event would provide the ideal occasion for a test run of the plan Cooke and Dean evolved to launch the art program. In mid-February, Cooke provided Thompson with a list of the artists who should be invited to travel to Cape Canaveral to record their impressions of the event. Andrew Wyeth, whom the curator identified as "the top artist in the U.S. today," headed the list. When the time came, however, Andrew Wyeth did not go to the Cape for the Cooper launch, but his son Jamie would participate in the program during the Gemini and Apollo years.

The list of invited artists also included Peter Hurd, Andrew Wyeth's brother-in-law, who had served as a wartime artist with the Army Air Force; George Weymouth, whom Wyeth regarded as "the best of his pupils"; and John McCoy, another Wyeth associate. Cooke regarded the next man on the list, Robert McCall, who had been running the Air Force art program, as "America's top aero-space illustrator. Paul Calle and Robert Shore had both painted for the Air Force program. Mitchell Jamieson, who had run a unit of the Navy art program during WW II, rounded out the program. Alfred Blaustein was the only artist to turn down the invitation.

The procedures that would remain in place for more than a decade were given a trial run in the spring of 1963. The artists received an $800 commission, which had to cover any expenses incurred while visiting a NASA facility where they could paint whatever interested them. In return, they would present their finished pieces, and all of their sketches, to the space agency. The experiment was a success, and what might have been a one-time effort to dispatch artists to witness and record the Gordon Cooper flight provided the basis for an on-going, if small-scale, program. By the end of 1970, Jim Dean and Lester Cooke had dispatched 38 artists to Mercury, Gemini and Apollo launches and to other NASA facilities.

The art program became everything that Jim Webb had hoped it would be. NASA artists produced stunning works of art that documented the agency's step-by-step progress on the way to the moon. The early fruits of the program were presented in a lavishly illustrated book, Eyewitness to Space (New York: Abrams, 1971). Works from the collection illustrated NASA publications and were the basis for educational film strips aimed at school children. In 1965 and again in 1969 the National Gallery of Art mounted two major exhibitions of work from the NASA collection. The USIA sent a selection of NASA paintings overseas, while the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service created two exhibitions of NASA art that toured the nation.

"Since we …began," Dean noted in a reflection on the tenth anniversary of the program, the art initiative had resulted in a long string of positive "press interviews and reports, congressional inquiries, columns in the Congressional Record, [and] White House reports." The NASA effort, he continued, had directly inspired other government art programs. "The Department of the Interior (at least two programs), the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of the Army and even the Veterans Administration have, or are starting, art programs." While he could not take all of the credit, Dean insisted that "our success has encouraged other agencies to get involved and they have succeeded, too."(5)

For all of that, he noted, it was still necessary to "defend" the role of art in the space agency. Dean, with the assistance of Lester Cooke, had been a one-man show, handling the complex logistics of the program, receiving and cataloguing works of art, hanging them himself in museums or on office walls, and struggling to find adequate storage space. In January 1976, a NASA supervisor went so far as to comment that: "Mr. Dean is far too valuable in other areas to spend his time on the relatively menial …jobs he is often burdened with in connection with the art program."(6) Dean placed a much higher value on the art collection, and immediately recommended that NASA officials either devote additional resources to the program, or get out of the art business and turn the existing collection over the National Air and Space Museum, "where it can be properly cared for."(7)

In January 1974 a new building for the National Air and Space Museum (NASM) was taking shape right across the street from NASA headquarters. Discussions regarding areas of cooperation were already underway between NASA officials and museum director Michael Collins, who had flown to the moon as a member of the Apollo 11 crew. Before the end of the year, the space agency had transferred its art collection to the NASM. Mike Collins succeeded in luring Jim Dean to the museum, as well.

The museum already maintained a small art collection, including portraits of aerospace heroes, an assortment of 18th and 19th century prints illustrating the early history of the balloon, an eclectic assortment of works portraying aspects of the history of aviation and a few recent prizes, including several Norman Rockwell paintings of NASA activity. With the acquisition of the NASA art, the museum was in possession of one of the world's great collections of art exploring aerospace themes. Jim Dean would continue to build the NASM collection as the museum's first curator of art. Following his retirement in 1980, other curators would follow in his footsteps, continuing to strengthen the role of art at the NASM. Over three decades after its arrival, however, the NASA art accession of 2,091 works still constitutes almost half of the NASM art collection.

(1) Stevenson's portrait is now in the collection of the National Air and Space Museum (1981-627)

(2) James E. Webb to Hiden Cox, March 16, 1962, memorandum in the NASA art historical collection, Aeronautics Division, National air and Space Museum. Webb's preference for a group portrait of the astronauts was apparently not heeded. In the end, Stevenson painted an individual portrait of John Glenn, which is also in the NASM collection (1963-398).

(3) Shelby Thompson, memorandum for the record, July 6, 1962, NASA art historical collection, NASA, Aeronautics Division.

(4) John Walker draft of a talk, March 5, 1965, copy in NASA Art historical collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

(5) James Dean, memorandum for the record, August 6, 1973, NASA art history collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

(6) Director of Planning and Media Development to Assistant Administrator for Public Affairs, January 24, 1974, NASA art history collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

(7) James Dean to the Assistant Administrator for Public Affairs, January 24, 1974, copy in NASA Art history Collection, Aeronautics Division, NASM.

Tom D. Crouch

Senior Curator, Aeronautics

National Air and Space Museum

Smithsonian Institution

July 26, 2007

Take a Journey Through History on Jordan's Brand New 400-Mile Trail

Smithsonian Magazine

Thousands of years ago, Jordan was the center of the King’s Highway, the historic Iron Age trade route stretching from Egypt to Damascus. During the first centuries B.C., Nabatean merchants seized control of the route, and the Romans after them. Here, empires were won and religious wars fought. Now, thanks to the brand new 400-mile Jordan Trail, you too can travel on foot across this fabled terrain.

Divided into eight sections, the trail runs along Jordan's western border from the verdant farmlands of Um Qais in the north to the desert landscapes of the south, ending at the Red Sea. Passing 52 communities, it traverses some of the country’s most stunning scenery and connects travelers to parts of Jordanian culture outside of beaten tourist paths. It can be hiked in its entirety as well as in parts—each section lasts four to six days—or even as a day-trip.

Joining the first official through-hike from March through May, renowned travel writer Andrew Evans reflected that “hiking the Jordan Trail feels like paradise." Walking through the sandstone cliffs of southern Jordan on the final leg of his trip, a feeling of charting new territory came over him: “The cliffs are magnificent, and yet we [were] the only ones around to acknowledge their greatness—for a week, it seems, our tiny group of hikers [were] the only inhabitants in Jordan’s best neighborhood."

From bucolic walks through the countryside to hilltop fortress views and starry nights in the Wadi Rum desert, the new path is as beautiful as it is diverse. If the Jordan Trail isn’t already on your travel list, here’s why it should be:

It is a 400-mile open-air museum

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To walk the Jordan Trail is to become part of a legacy that dates back millennia. The trail crosses some of Jordan’s most significant historical sites, including two of the country’s five Unesco World Heritage sites—Petra and Wadi Rum—with off-route access to the other three. Arriving via the trail at Petra, the Nabatean capital built into rose-red sandstone cliffs, and Wadi Rum, an ancient desert valley, brings their history to life, as these were the same routes used by thousands of ancient merchants centuries before. To reach Petra, hikers first pass Little Petra, the city’s northern outpost, before entering the ancient capital through a back door. In Wadi Rum, old shepherd paths snake past thousands of ancient petroglyphs and rock inscriptions written by the Nabateans and nomadic Thamudic tribes.

Happening upon lesser-known sites is another gift of the open road. Stand among basalt ruins at Um Qais, once a flourishing arts city of the Roman Decapolis, and look out over the Sea of Galilee; then pass through the Tel Mar Eliza Byzantine monastery ruins, believed to be the traditional birthplace of the Old Testament prophet Elijah. Visit the medieval mountaintop castle of Ajloun, an important Arab stronghold in the battle against European Crusaders, followed by its opponent Kerak Castle, a Crusader fortress complete with dungeons and a moat. From Ajloun, pass through the Christian-Arabic village of Remeimeen with its neighboring church spire and minaret.

Hike through jaw-dropping scenery

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Jordan’s scenery changes dramatically from north to south. Begin your journey in the north at Um Qais with its wooded hills, fertile farmlands and hot springs. Here, citrus orchards, olive groves and green fields stretch for miles amid rocky outcrops speckled by daisies, poppies and the rare endemic black iris. “Every day the path turns greener, as if some divine hand has Photoshopped the landscape, dialing up the brightness to an implausible green that demands sunglasses and a long afternoon in the shade of a jujube tree,” Andrew wrote of his travels through the northern section of the trail. 

Country lanes turn into rugged wadis and cliffs as the trail approaches the Jordan Rift Valley, offering fantastic views with no civilization in sight. Soon, the climate gets drier and layered limestone transforms into smooth slot canyons striped with iron ore. The labyrinth of pastel colors gradually transforms into the monolithic rose-red sandstone walls of Petra, and then to the towering mountains and red desert sands of Wadi Rum. In this greatest stretch of the trail’s wilderness, colors shift from Sahara whites to Martian reds throughout day. At night, the only light is that of the stars. 

Emerging from the heat and intensity of Wadi Rum, the Red Sea appears on the horizon over vertical cliffs of granite, promising crystal waters and breezy beaches. 

Sample Jordan's best cuisine

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Hospitality is in Jordanian blood. In towns or on the road, you will be invited into the homes of locals for tea or food wherever you go. In the agricultural commuities of the north, a shepherd may offer homemade cheese or citrus fruit from his farm, or bread baked fresh in a taboun (clay oven) and topped with za’aatar—a Jordanian spice blend of salt, pepper, thyme and sesame seeds. In the Bedouin camps of the south, you may find yourself sipping smoky herbal tea as zarb, a mixture of meat, rice and vegetables, simmers in a stove beneath the sand. The Jordanian Trail is a tasting menu of the country’s unique and mouthwatering cuisine. 

Live like the locals

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A number of communities along the trail offer homestays and a chance to experience their cultures firsthand. The Al Ayoun Society—one of Jordan’s first tourism cooperatives formed by the neighboring villages of Orjan, Rasoun and Baoun—manages six homestays in the verdant hills of the north. Local guides take visitors out on nearly seven miles of hiking trails past ancient sacrificial altars, cave shelters and olive groves dating back to Roman times, imparting their knowledge of the land while finding time for the group to enjoy local food or tea. 

Tucked deep in the mountains of the Dana Biosphere Reserve on the route from Dana to Petra in the south, the solar-powered Feynan Ecolodge has garnered multiple accolades. Lit by candles at night and set against the magnificent Wadi Feynan, it epitomizes Bedouin hospitality. Take a guided bike or RWD tour of the ancient copper mines nearby and watch spiny tail lizards scuttle out of your way. For a true desert experience, head to Wadi Rum and sleep under the stars in a traditional Bedouin tent made from black goat fur.

Plan your trip now.

*****

Discover more about the Land of Hospitality.

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These Five "Witness Trees" Were Present At Key Moments In America's History

Smithsonian Magazine

A witness tree begins its life like any other tree. It sprouts. It grows. And then it’s thrust into the spotlight, playing an involuntary part in a significant historic event. Often, that event is a devastating, landscape-scarring battle or other tragic moment. Once Civil War soldiers march on to their next battle, say, or a country turns its attention to healing after a terrorist attack, a witness tree remains as a biologically tenacious symbol of the past.

Witness trees have been known to hide bullets they’ve absorbed beneath new layers of wood and bark, and they heal other visible scars over time. While they may look like ordinary trees, they have incredible stories to tell.

Travelers, history lovers, some park rangers and others have embraced these exceptional trees as important, living connections to our past. In 2006, Paul Dolinsky, chief of the National Park Service’s Historic American Landscapes Survey, led the development of the Witness Tree Protection Program, a pilot project that identified an initial 24 historically and biologically significant trees in the Washington, D.C. area. Written histories and photographs of the trees are archived at the Library of Congress. “Although trees have longevity, they’re ephemeral,” says Dolinsky. “This will be a lasting record of the story a tree has to tell.”

While the pilot program has gained some traction, the number of witness trees in the U.S. remains unknown. One reason why: Some areas where witness trees may reside, like battlefields, are vast. Another reason: It can be difficult to determine a tree’s age to confirm it was alive during a significant historic event. Boring into a tree can answer that question, but it can also damage a tree so it’s not often done. In some cases, witness trees aren’t identified until they die of natural causes. In 2011, for instance, a felled oak tree with two bullets embedded in the trunk was found on Culp’s Hill in Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania. Photographs or other historic records, however, can confirm some witness trees—and rule out others—with relative ease.

Confirmed witness trees are precious. They survived trauma, and then dodged disease and storms and whatever else humans and nature have hurled at them for dozens or even hundreds of years. Though some trees can live for 500 years, it’s unknown how much longer some of these may survive.

Communing with a witness tree offers a true, one-of-a-kind thrill. “It’s a live thing,” says Joe Calzarette, Natural Resources Program Manager at Antietam National Battlefield in Maryland. “There’s something about a live thing that you can connect with in a way you can’t with an inanimate object.”

To experience it yourself, visit these five trees that have witnessed some of the most traumatic and tragic events that have shaped U.S. history. When you go, respect any barriers—natural or manmade—between you and the witness tree, and take care never to get too close to trees that seem approachable. Even walking on nearby soil can have an impact on a tree’s root system and overall health.

The War of 1812 Willow Oak, Oxon Cove Park & Oxon Hill Farm, Maryland

War of 1812 Willow Oak, near parking lot, Oxon Hill, Prince George's County, MD (Library of Congress)

The blood and fire of the War of 1812 Willow Oak’s namesake hostilities reached the tree during the Battle of Bladensburg on August 24, 1814. The lonely oak with its thick, gnarled trunk now stands in a grassy field in Maryland, near the parking lot of the Oxon Cove Park & Oxon Hill Farm in Oxon Hill, known two centuries ago as Mount Welby, home of British sympathizers Dr. Samuel DeButts and his family. The tree and estate overlooked Washington, D.C.

On that August night, British troops defeated American troops about six miles away from Mount Welby, then attacked the capital, setting the White House and other parts of the city on fire. DeButts’ wife, Mary Welby, wrote of that evening: “Our house shook repeatedly by the firing upon forts [and] Bridges, [and was] illuminated by the fires in our Capital.” The DeButts family later found three rockets from the fighting on their property.

White Oak Tree, Manassas National Battlefield Park, Virginia

A White Oak Witness Tree near Stone Bridge at Manassas National Battlefield Park in Manassas, VA (Bryan Gorsira, NPS)

At the eastern edge of Manassas National Battlefield Park, walk across Bull Run Creek via Stone Bridge, take a right on the trail, then curve around the water. Ahead on the left rises a White Oak that survived not one but two Civil War battles.

The tree grows in a spot that both Union and Confederate armies thought was critical to victory. On the morning of July 21, 1861, the opening shots of the First Battle of Manassas pierced the sultry summer air over the nearby Stone Bridge, as the Union made its initial diversionary attack. When the battle ended, Union troops retreated across the bridge and through the water. Confederate troops also retreated through here on March 9, 1862, destroying the original Stone Bridge behind them as they evacuated their winter camps.

Troops from both sides returned to the tree’s orbit during the Second Battle of Manassas in late August 1862, with the defeated Union rear guard destroying a makeshift replacement wooden bridge. A photo from March 1862 by George N. Barnard shows a decimated landscape, the trees thin and bare. Today, the scene is more serene, with the tree—and a rebuilt Stone Bridge—sturdy and resolute.

The National Park Service estimates Manassas contains hundreds of other witness trees, many having been found with the help of a Girl Scout working on her Gold Award project.

The Burnside Sycamore, Antietam National Battlefield, Maryland

Burnside Bridge Sycamore, southwest of Burnside Bridge, Historic Burnside Bridge Road, Sharpsburg, Washington County, MD (Library of Congress)

During the afternoon of September 17, 1862, General Ambrose Burnside and his Union troops battled three hours against dug-in Confederate positions to cross a bridge over Antietam Creek. An additional two hours of fighting ensued against Confederate reinforcements. There were more than 600 casualties at Burnside Bridge, contributing to the Civil War’s bloodiest day.

Amid the fighting, a young sycamore growing beside the bridge withstood the crossfire. We know this because, several days later, Alexander Gardner photographed what became known as the Burnside Bridge, with the tree near the lower left corner of the image. The iconic photo can be seen at Antietam on the wayside in front of the tree, located in the southern reaches of Antietam National Battlefield.

The Burnside Sycamore has since faced other threats, like flooding and even the bridge itself. The bridge's foundation is probably limiting the tree’s root system. But now the tree stands tall and healthy, its branches spreading high above the bridge and the gentle creek, creating a serene, shady nook. “People see the tree and they see the little wayside and they think, ‘Boy, if this tree could talk,'”says Calzarette.

Antietam contains several other known witness trees, including in the West and North Woods.

The Sickles Oak, Gettysburg National Military Park, Pennsylvania

Reed's sketch of Major General Daniel E. Sickles and his men gathered under the Sickles Oak (Library of Congress)

The Swamp White Oak on the grounds of Trostle Farm witnessed some of Gettysburg’s heaviest fighting—its shade beckoned a notorious Civil War figure looking for a command post. Charles Reed sketched Major General Daniel E. Sickles and his men gathered under the Sickles Oak during the afternoon of July 2, 1863, not long before Sickles disobeyed direct orders and marched his men into disaster. During an onslaught by Confederate troops, Sickles’ men took heavy losses; Sickles lost his right leg to a cannonball.

The Sickles Oak was at least 75 years old at the time of the battle, and it’s grown into a “big, beautiful, healthy-looking tree,” says Katie Lawhon, Gettysburg National Military Park spokesperson. Several witness trees are believed to survive in Gettysburg, but the Sickles Oak is among the most accessible today. It’s close to stop 11 on the Gettysburg auto tour, near the still-standing buildings of Trostle Farm.

Oklahoma City Survivor Tree, Oklahoma City National Memorial, Oklahoma

The Oklahoma City Survivor Tree (Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum)

When Timothy McVeigh bombed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building on April 19, 1995, killing 168 people, an American elm in downtown Oklahoma City absorbed the blast. Glass and metal from the explosion embedded in its bark. The hood of an exploded car landed in its crown.

Instead of removing the tree to extract evidence, survivors, family members of those killed in the blast, and others urged officials to save the almost 100-year-old elm. Planners of the Oklahoma City National Memorial created conditions to allow the tree to recover and thrive; they also made it a focal point of the memorial. A custom promontory surrounds the 40-foot-tall tree, ensuring the elm gets proper care above and below ground. The Survivor Tree, as it’s now known, like many other witness trees, serves as a touchstone of resilience.

Ten Infamous Islands of Exile

Smithsonian Magazine

Patmos, Greece
A tiny, mountainous speck in the Aegean Sea, the 13-square-mile island of Patmos is where, according to Christian tradition, St. John was exiled in A.D. 95 after being persecuted for his faith by the Romans and where he wrote his Gospel and the Book of Revelation. Ten centuries later, in 1088, a monk built a monastery on the island dedicated to the saint. This established Patmos as a pilgrimage site and a center of Greek Orthodox learning, which it remains to this day. In 1999, Unesco declared the Monastery of Saint John the Theologian—along with the Cave of the Apocalypse, where St. John is said to have received his revelations from God, and the nearby medieval settlement of Chora—a World Heritage site. Unesco stated: “There are few other places in the world where religious ceremonies that date back to the early Christian times are still being practiced unchanged.”

Sado Island, Japan
With its dramatic mountains, lush forests and temperate climate, Sado Island is now a popular retreat. But in medieval times, the island, 32 miles west of Niigata Prefecture in the Sea of Japan, was a place of banishment for those who had fallen out of favor with the rulers of the day. More than 70 people—notably aristocrats and artists—were exiled here, beginning in A.D. 722 with the poet Asomioyu Hozumi, who criticized the emperor. Other exiles included the Emperor Juntoku, who attempted a coup against the Kamakura shogunate in 1220, and the monk Nichiren in 1271, who preached a radical form of Buddhism. Today, many attribute the island’s eclectic population and cultural riches—Sado has more than 30 Noh stages and is known as the “Island of Performing Arts”—to the presence of these early exiles.

Île Sainte-Marguerite, France
Just off the coast of Cannes in the Mediterranean Sea, the small, forested island of Sainte-Marguerite—about two miles long and a half-mile wide—was home to one of history’s most enigmatic prisoners. The convict, whose identity was concealed behind what was most likely a black velvet mask, was brought to the island in 1687, during the reign of Louis XIV, and locked up in the Royal Fort, then a state prison. (His barren cell can still be seen.) Later, he was moved to the Bastille, where he died in 1703 at around age 45.

The prisoner’s identity and the reason for his incarceration are still not known. But over the centuries, they have been the subjects of much speculation. One popular theory, that he was an older brother of Louis XIV, became the basis for Alexander Dumas’ classic tale The Man in the Iron Mask.

The Royal Fort continued to be used as a prison until the 20th century. Today it houses the Musée de la Mer, devoted to marine archaeology.

Robinson Crusoe Island, Chile
In 1704, British privateer Alexander Selkirk was marooned on Isla Más a Tierra in the Pacific after quarreling with the captain of his ship, the Cinque Ports. He lived alone on the rugged 29-square-mile island, 418 miles off Valparaiso, Chile, for more than four years, subsisting on fish, lobster, goats and seals, until he was rescued by a passing ship in February 1709. Woodes Rogers, the captain, described Selkirk upon rescue as “a man Cloth’d in Goat-Skins, who look’d wilder than the first Owners of them.” Selkirk’s ordeal is believed to have been the inspiration for Daniel Defoe’s novel Robinson Crusoe, published in 1719.

The Chilean government renamed Isla Más a Tierra to Robinson Crusoe Island in 1966, in hopes of attracting tourism.

Devil’s Island, French Guiana
History’s most notorious penal colony, Devil’s Island actually consisted of several prisons, one on the mainland near the capital, Cayenne, and three offshore, reserved for the most dangerous offenders: Isle Royale, Isle St. Joseph and tiny Devil’s Island. Napoleon III established the penal colony in 1854, and some 80,000 French convicts—criminals, spies and political prisoners—would be sent there before it officially closed in 1938. While there, most of the convicts were assigned to hard labor, either in timber camps or on the construction of a road prisoners called “Route Zero,” which was nothing more than a make-work project. The penal colony was also known as the “Dry Guillotine,” owing to the high mortality rate from disease, harsh working conditions and hunger. (Prisoners who failed to meet daily work quotas in the timber camps were denied food.) An estimated 50,000 inmates died.

The most famous of several well-known prisoners was Capt. Alfred Dreyfus, who, wrongly convicted of treason, spent four and a half years there in solitary confinement, from 1895 to 1899. Another was Henri Charrière, whose 1968 memoir, Papillon, recounting his escape, became a best seller and a major motion picture.

In the mid-1960s, Devil’s Island, by then abandoned and overgrown, got new life when the French government chose French Guiana as the location for its space center. The space agency purchased the three offshore islands, which were under the launch trajectory, and in the 1980s decided to preserve many of the prison buildings as a cultural heritage site.

Image by Hoberman Collection/Corbis. Located seven miles offshore of Cape Town across wind-whipped Table Bay, Robben Island has been a place of exile for most of the past 400 years. (original image)

Image by Danita Delimont / Alamy. Some 300 prisoners—hardened criminals and political dissidents—were incarcerated in the Galapagos Islands under extremely harsh conditions. (original image)

Image by Danita Delimont / Alamy. The most famous of several well-known prisoners of Devil's Island was Capt. Alfred Dreyfus, who, wrongly convicted of treason, spent four and a half years there in solitary confinement, from 1895 to 1899. (original image)

Image by Matt Campbell/epa/Corbis. Named Isla de Alcatraces (Island of Pelicans) by an early Spanish explorer, the small, rocky island in the middle of San Francisco Bay was the site of one of the United States’ most feared prisons (original image)

Image by Wolfgang Kaehler/CORBIS. Alexander Selkirk’s ordeal on this Pacific island is believed to have been the inspiration for Daniel Defoe’s novel Robinson Crusoe, published in 1719. (original image)

St. Helena
Located in the middle of the South Atlantic, 1,200 miles from Angola and 1,800 miles from Brazil, the island of St. Helena is among the most remote places on earth. This detail was not lost on the British, who sent Napoleon into exile here following his defeat at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. The general and his 26-person entourage were lodged at Longwood House, the six-room former summer residence of the island’s lieutenant general. Napoleon passed the time reading, gardening and dictating his memoirs. He was free to go wherever he wanted on the property, but had to be accompanied by a guard for outside excursions. Napoleon died on St. Helena in 1821 at age 51.

Today, the rocky, 47-square-mile island (pop. 4,250) is a British Overseas Territory and is still accessible only by water.

Coiba Island, Panama
Fifteen miles off Panama’s Pacific coast and surrounded by shark-infested waters, 122,000-acre Isla Coiba is the country’s largest island. First inhabited by Cacique Indians and later pirates, it was established in 1919 as a penal colony for Panama’s most dangerous criminals. Political dissidents were sent there under the military dictatorships of Omar Torrijos and Manuel Noriega. Human-rights groups frequently reported on the harsh conditions of the penal colony, including incidents of torture and murder. One former inmate, Panamanian journalist Leopoldo Aragón, recalled that prisoners were forced to run a gauntlet, chased by guards beating them with clubs. The penal colony was shut down in 2004.

Since the island was never developed, it boasts vast tracts of virgin tropical rainforest, mangrove swamps, pristine beaches and species found nowhere else in the world. Isla Coiba is also among the last places in Panama where scarlet macaws and crested eagles still exist in the wild. In 2005, Coiba National Park—which includes the island, 37 smaller islands and the waters surrounding them—was designated a Unesco World Heritage site.

Galápagos Islands, Ecuador
Between 1946 and 1959, the Ecuadorean government used 1,790-square-mile Isabela, the largest island in the Galápagos chain, as an agriculture and penal colony. Some 300 prisoners—hardened criminals and political dissidents—were incarcerated there under extremely harsh conditions. Guards ordered them to build a wall out of lava rocks brought from a distant crater—a wall that served no purpose. A number of prisoners, slaving under the hot equatorial sun, are thought to have died during its construction. Today the wall is all that remains of the penal colony and is known as the Muro de las Lagrimas, the Wall of Tears.

Robben Island, South Africa
Located seven miles offshore of Cape Town across wind-whipped Table Bay, Robben Island has been a place of exile for most of the past 400 years. It was used as a prison by the early Dutch and British, as a leper colony and mental hospital between 1846 and 1931, and as a political prison for non-white opponents of the apartheid regime from 1960 to 1991. Many well-known dissidents—Nelson Mandela, Robert Sobukwe and current South African President Jacob Zuma, among them—were incarcerated here under brutal conditions, enduring beatings, harassment and forced labor in the island’s lime quarries.

In 1997, the 1,447-acre island became a museum, with guided tours provided by former political inmates, and today it’s among the most popular tourist destinations in Cape Town.

Alcatraz, San Francisco, California
Named Isla de Alcatraces (Island of Pelicans) by an early Spanish explorer, the small, rocky island in the middle of San Francisco Bay was the site of one of the United States’ most feared prisons. From the day it opened in 1934, “The Rock” was a prison’s prison, receiving other penitentiary’s most incorrigible and dangerous inmates. No criminal was ever sentenced directly to Alcatraz. A total of 1,545 people were incarcerated there in its nearly three decades of operation, including Al Capone; Doc Barker, of the Ma Barker gang; Robert Stroud, a.k.a. the “Birdman of Alcatraz”; and George “Machine Gun” Kelly. As the prison was 1½ miles offshore and surrounded by frigid waters with treacherous currents, escape attempts were few. Of the 34 people who tried, most were recaptured or killed. Five, however, have never been accounted for and are listed as “missing and presumed drowned.”

Alcatraz closed in 1963 because of high operating costs. During the rest of the decade, Native Americans occupied the island twice, claiming their right to it under an 1868 treaty. The second occupation ended in 1971 with their removal by federal marshals. In 1972, Alcatraz became part of the new Golden Gate National Recreation Area and today receives more than a million visitors a year.

Editor's Note, August 11, 2010: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that St. John wrote the Book of Revelations. He wrote the Book of Revelation. Thanks to our many commenters for identifying the error.

Why Is This Indian Ocean Island a Hot Spot for Shark Attacks?

Smithsonian Magazine

On a tropically warm day in November, French, South African and German tourists took to the aquamarine waves at the Lux* resort in the southwest of Mauritius, a booming Indian Ocean tourist destination. Besides the simple joy of basking in 77-degree water, the program offered by the posh resort included snorkeling, scuba diving, kitesurfing and swimming with the dolphins.

Meanwhile, in Mauritius's nearest island neighbor La Réunion, very few people do more than dip a toe in the water. Swimming and surfing are banned on La Réunion in all but a few places because of a fear of shark attacks.

Since 2011 there have been 18 shark attacks resulting in 7 deaths in La Réunion, where citizens, fishers and politicians have begun discussing the relative merits of a large-scale shark cull. Meanwhile, the last unprovoked human-shark confrontation recorded in Mauritius took place in the 1980s, and the island is now joining the ranks of those calling for tighter shark conservation rules.

Any concerns about sharks raised by tourists on Mauritius are invariably answered by a version of this: “The ring of coral reefs protects these waters.”

However, the coral reef is just a ready explanation to reassure those who pay top dollar to stay at luxury resorts. Fishers, scientists, government officials and most everyone else knows that sharks easily traverse the coral ring. Besides, many of the water activities on offer at the Lux* or by any tour operator on the island take place on or beyond the coral ring, which runs from 30 feet to a mile from the shoreline. 

But if the pat answer of an all-protecting coral reef is woefully incomplete, what can explain why La Réunion has become one of the world’s most active shark attack zones while Mauritius continues to enjoy safe waters? 

The truth involves a complicated array of factors, including underwater geography, effluent runoff, a global reduction in fish stocks, and the fact that hunting sharks in Mauritius and selling their meat and fins continues to be legal.

Le Morne in Mauritius, a popular tourist destination, is safe from shark attacks. The popular theory holds that a coral reef protects swimmers, but the truth is not so simple. (Christopher F. Schuetze)

La Réunion and Mauritius are both relatively small islands situated deep in the Indian Ocean on roughly the same latitude as Madagascar. Despite the two islands’ physical proximity and similar cultures and languages, they are a study in socio-political contrasts. Mauritius has been an independent country since 1968, while La Réunion is part of France, so the islands are governed by completely different laws.

Such differences do not matter to sharks. “Sharks don’t have passports,” quips Hugues Vitry, one of Mauritius’ best-known shark experts. In the 30 years that he has been diving, Vitry has spent much time around tiger and bull sharks—the suspects in virtually every shark attack in La Réunion. 

As it is in most of the world, the reputation of sharks in the Indian Ocean region is near mythical. Around foreigners, the word is spoken in a hush, as though the mere mention of the animal could burst the tourism boom.

Just a short plane ride to the west, sharks have been dominating headlines since 2011, when a body boarder named Eddy Auber was killed off a beach on the west side of the island.

“Before the crisis started, we knew just as much as Mauritians know about sharks,” says Marc Soria, a researcher at the IRD, the French national institute for research and development. “What makes sharks swim through your legs one day and bite them off the next?”

Spurred by the unfortunate encounters with sharks in La Réunion, Soria’s team has since conducted the region’s most extensive and perhaps only scientifically rigorous research on shark behavior, backed by the heft of France’s national research institution and underwritten by a regional, national and European research fund.

After three years of tagging and collecting data from 45 tiger sharks and 38 bull sharks, Soria thinks he has some answers to help explain why beaches in La Réunion have been a target when the ones teeming with sunburned tourists in Mauritius have been so safe.

One widely accepted theory links the surge in attacks to overfishing of fish stocks and the smaller reef sharks that once competed for space and food with bigger predators. That may be part of the answer: Soria and his team noticed the sharks had a tendency to approach coastlines when the fish stocks in the surrounding ocean ran low. However, he also found more complex behaviors.

Bull sharks prefer muddy water and tend to give birth in freshwater estuaries. Though no estuaries exist for them in La Réunion, Soria’s team found evidence that the muddy freshwater runoff caused by the recent buildup of urban areas — in one case flowing into a bay in the city of St. Paul, where attacks have been documented — seems to attract the sharks.

A scientist tags a shark near La Réunion, as part of a three-year effort to identify why sharks near this island are more likely to attack humans than in neighboring places. (Courtesy Marc Soria)

However, Mauritius has also been urbanizing and has plenty of sites where effluent-laden freshwater flows into the ocean. In one especially eerie point of comparison, the Straights of Maheburg in the south of Mauritius are known for their muddy waters and are located next to a large fish farm. St. Paul in La Réunion had a similar fish farm that was forced to shut down in 2012 because of an island-wide boycott of its products. Despite the dearth of scientific proof, enough of the island’s consumers were convinced that the farm was contributing to their shark problem.

That suggests additional factors are at play. Around La Réunion, Soria and his team documented aggressive behavior during mating seasons and a daily pattern of sharks heading toward land in the afternoon, which is when most shark attacks are documented.

Shark behavior in La Réunion might also be influenced by differences in underwater topology, says Vitry. While sharks can and do reach tourist beaches in Mauritius, the underwater environment there makes them much less likely to strike.

For one, the geologically younger, volcanic La Réunion juts out of the deep ocean much more steeply than Mauritius, leaving the island surrounded by smaller zones fit for the wide variety of aquatic life that thrives in relatively shallow seas. At the same time, the steepness of its shores allows sharks used to living in the deep, such as tiger sharks, to approach the coastal bounty more easily. In effect, sharks come closer to La Réunion's shores specifically in search of food.

In addition, subtle and very localized differences in the underwater landscape can influence shark encounters.

Surfers can resemble sick animals at the surface of the water and so appear to scavenging sharks as easy prey. According to Vitry, surfers on Mauritius tend to be active over sandy beaches while the big waves at the popular surf sites in La Réunion break over corals, a place where sharks naturally are more likely to be looking for food.

Based on their studies, Soria and many other experts dispute the widely held theory that the opening of a protected marine area along the west side of La Réunion in 2007 is to blame for the spike in shark attacks.

A ban on the sale of shark meat on the island is also unlikely to be responsible for the recent spate of attacks, because not enough people on La Réunion would buy the meat to affect the shark population, explains Nathalie Verlinden, an independent local marine biologist who specializes in sharks.

Tourists dip into the water in Mauritius. (Christopher F. Schuetze)

But the situation has made sharks political in La Réunion, with a large part of the population supporting two projects officially aimed at testing ways to catch sharks for culling, carried out by the Réunion Island Regional Committee for Sea Fisheries and Aquaculture.

In 2015 the island, supported by France, also spent two million Euros on two shark-proof fences on the west of the island. The fences are strung below the water’s surface and cost the region a million Euros a year to maintain. While they might be considered an extreme solution, the fences allow many residents and tourists who have deep-seated fears of sharks to swim in the open ocean.

Back on Mauritius, a couple from La Réunion visiting for a two-week diving vacation set out very early one morning intending to find sharks. “I’ve never seen them in the wild before,” says Claire Marion, just moments after having resurfaced from a successful sightseeing dive.

While his neighbors on La Réunion seek ways to cut back their shark numbers, Vitry regularly takes divers to visit shark pits, underwater hollows and gullies along the north of the island where sharks gather. These days the pits are mostly visited by reef sharks, considered relatively harmless to humans, though bull sharks do make an occasional appearance.

Most shark species, even the notorious bull and tiger sharks, are unlikely to attack a diver if the latter does not provoke them or carry bloody foods. Experienced divers on Mauritius often compare sharks to the many stray dogs that roam the island: an animal that should be respected but not feared.

“Ten years ago there were a lot more sharks,” says Vitry, who blames their decline around Mauritius on tourists looking for trophies and on fishers failing to catch anything more valuable. “I used to go over to them and try to talk with them,” he says of the fishers he would find hovering around shark pits. But as the subject became heated and the sharks rarer, such confrontations miles from land had the potential of becoming dangerous.

David Ardill, a retired long-time fisheries officer in Mauritius and a consultant with the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission, compares the sharks to sturgeon in the caviar trade. Most of the time, the fish itself has little value, and fishers are only after its valuable fins, considered a delicacy in some cultures.

Spanish and Portuguese commercial long-line fishers do hunt shark for their meat north of the islands. Although not nearly as prized as tuna or marlin, shark flesh can be sold for use in fish sticks or battered fish, says Ardill.

Hugues Vitry has created a niche "shark tourism" business in Mauritius, taking tourists to dive with sharks. Like most experienced divers on the island, Vitry believes that sharks should be respected, but not feared. (Christopher F. Schuetze)

As a signatory to the tuna commission’s global action plan, which requires national commitments, Mauritius is soon to publish its own national plan on shark conservation. Although the details are not public yet, one rule will stipulate that if sharks are caught as by-catch, they may be kept only if the entire fish and not just the fins are brought in.

“We are for the conservation of sharks because we know it is a very important part of the ecosystem, it acts as a scavenger,” says Devanand Norungee, Mauritius' assistant director of fisheries. Given the island's available resources, though, enforcement will likley remain an issue. 

If its conservation efforts lag, Mauritius might simply ignore sharks, since the island does not see them as a danger to the tourism trade. That attitude, however, seems nearly impossible just 120 miles to the west.

“We have quite a different relationship with sharks here,” says Vitry, standing on his Mauritian diving club’s pier and looking west over the turquoise blue ocean in the general direction of La Réunion.

Beyond Bollywood: Immigration, Culture, and the Indian American Experience

Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage
The Sharma family in San Francisco, 1983. Photograph by Prithvi Sharma
The Sharma family in San Francisco, 1983.
Photograph by Prithvi Sharma

Beyond Bollywood: Indian Americans Shape the Nation opens at the National Museum of Natural History on February 27, 2014, and runs through August 16, 2015. The exhibition is the first major national exhibit to focus on the experiences of Indians in America and features an in-depth exploration of the heritage, daily experience, and numerous, diverse contributions that Indian immigrants and Indian Americans have made to shaping the United States.

We sat down with Masum Momaya, of the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center and curator of Beyond Bollywood, to discuss immigration, culture, and the diversity of the Indian American experience.

Let’s start with immigration, which is in many ways where this story begins. Why did Indians initially come to the United States?

In the 1800s, as India struggled to survive under British colonial rule, the first wave of Indian immigrants came to the U.S. in search of political and personal freedom. Specifically, in the late 1800s and early 1900s, farmers from Punjab, oppressed by British taxation and restrictions on land ownership, settled along the American West Coast. They worked alongside Chinese immigrants in lumber mills and iron factories and on railroads to support the nation’s industrial boom. Meanwhile, peddlers from West Bengal, capitalizing on the American desire for “Oriental” goods such as silk and spices, set up shop along the Eastern seaboard. Indian seamen, eager to escape the boiling engine rooms of British steamers, began jumping ship in New York and Baltimore. Generations later, Indians have come and are coming to U.S. for higher education, business opportunities, and to pursue a better life for themselves and their families.

Beyond Bollywood entrance. Photo by Sameen Piracha, Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center
Beyond Bollywood entrance.
Photo by Sameen Piracha, Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center

How were Indian American communities involved in creating the exhibition?

Beginning in 2008, Indian American individuals, families, and communities all over the country generously shared stories, photos, documents, and artifacts with us. Indian American academic and community-based advisors also provided input throughout the project. When the Smithsonian began this effort there was really nothing in the national collection that represented the experiences of Indians in America. We hope this exhibition changes that.

While putting the exhibition together, what are some surprising continuities you found in terms of cultural traditions across generations?

We found that Indian Americans across generations have been working to sustain traditions in food, music, dance, fashion, literature, poetry, and religious rituals—all while adapting to the context of living in the United States. This is true not just for the generations who immigrated but also their children. In fact, there are many instances of Indian Americans who have lived here most of their lives but gone back to India to immerse themselves in a tradition and come back to the United States to share it with Indian American and broader American audiences. This is true for cookbook author Anupy Singla and her book The Indian Slow Cooker, dancer Parijat Desai, musician DJ Rekha, visual artist Sita Bhaumik, and designer Naeem Khan.

How is the incredible diversity of experiences, traditions, and cultural practices within the Indian American community reflected in Beyond Bollywood?

Deciding what to include and figuring out how to reflect the diversity of the community was the most challenging aspect of the exhibition as we encountered so many meaningful stories, wonderful photographs, telling documents, and resonant artifacts. We selected artifacts, art, objects, and images that exemplified the contributions that Indian immigrants and Indian Americans have made to the U.S. and that that tell a larger story in and of themselves. In this way, curating is as much an art as a science, adding and taking out things and stepping back to see the larger whole. Also, it’s my belief that an exhibition isn’t finished when it opens to the public but rather just the beginning of an expanding and extended sharing that lives in the gallery, in social media, in classrooms, and at dining tables through conversations. We also see this exhibition as a first step rather than a definitive account and aimed to be evocative and resonant rather than exhaustive and comprehensive.

Is there a special object in the exhibition that you think has a particularly compelling story?

We spent more than a year pursuingand eventually were able to borrowa dress designed by Indian American designer Naeem Khan and worn by First Lady Michelle Obama at the 2012 Governors Dinner. Aside from the Inaugural Ball gowns that are shown in the National Museum of American History, it’s rare to be able to exhibit a Frist Lady’s dress, let alone one from a sitting First Lady. The office of the First Lady at The White House and the National Archives, which stores presidential artifacts, were very generous in working with us to get the dress for the exhibit. Khan comes from a long line of embroiderers and designers, stretching back to the Mughal Courts in India, and this particular gown incorporates embroidery techniques passed down to him on a classic American silhouette. It is literally an example of Indian Americanness being woven into the fabric of the garment.

We’ve spoken a fair amount about material culture. Let’s talk about the role of intangible cultural heritage in Beyond Bollywood. How do music and sound factor into the exhibition?

The entryway to the exhibition features two old Bollywood songs, “Pyar Kiya to Darna Kya” from the film Mughal-e-Azam (1960), composed by Naushad and sung by Lata Mangeshkar, and “Jeena Yahan Marna Yahan” from the film Mera Naam Joker (1970), composed by Shankar-Jaikishan and sung by Mukesh. These were two iconic songs for the generation that emigrated from India to the U.S. in the 1960s and 1970s. And since we are taking “Bollywood” as an emotional, conceptual, and visual point of departure in the exhibition, we included these two songs to set a nostalgic tone.

Also, the exhibition includes a listening station with ten tracks featuring Indian musicians who’ve influenced the American musical landscape. Among them is “Rag Ahir Bhairav,” by Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia on bansuri (flute) and Zakir Hussain on tabla (drum), from the album Venu in the Smithsonian Folkways collection.

What kind of events will be associated with the exhibition?

We will offer docent tours of the exhibition led by Indian American community members from around the area. We hope to host programs featuring instrumental and vocal musicians, dancers, magicians, writers, actors, and chefs in the coming year or so. Keep an eye on the Beyond Bollywood website for upcoming programming related to Beyond Bollywood.

We’ve spent some time discussing the exhibition. Let’s talk about the curatorial process and your presence in the exhibit. How did curating this exhibition change or impact your identity as an Indian American (if you self-identify)?

Masum Momaya speaking. Photo by Sameen Piracha, Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center
Masum Momaya speaking.
Photo by Sameen Piracha, Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center

I identify as many things: a South Asian American, an Indian American, a daughter of immigrants, a feminist, a person living with a disability, and a person who feels strongly about injustice associated with class privilege in the United States and globally. These identities are intersectional for me, rather than a laundry list that I can separate in my daily experience.

Working on this exhibition affirmed that some of my identity has been shaped through living as an Indian American person, but much of it has been shaped by other factors. It has also strongly affirmed a quote from the exhibition for me, “Indian Americans are as diverse as America itself.”

What do you hope Indian Americans take away from the exhibition?

For my parents’ generation who came here in the 1960s and 1970s, I’m hoping that there is emotional resonance in having their experience reflected, in seeing their stories at the Smithsonian. We collected items and stories from Indian American families, but we hope that there will be resonance beyond those specific families that will spark emotions for many visitors who are part of that generation. I also hope that they feel that everything they experienced and struggled through was not for naught and that we’ve honored and respected their experiences.

For those of us who are children of immigrants, the first generation born in this country, like me, we have needed the deftness to navigate being Indian and American. It’s our common experience, and we know that for those who immigrated here, it was not for nothing. We think of the possibilities it opened up for us and for future generations. I want my generation to feel a sense of belonging, that we don’t have to leave their roots behind or “choose” between any aspects of our identities in order to belong.

For children born to those in my generation, I want them to walk away with a sense of the depth and nuance of their roots in the United States. Perhaps they and future generations will no longer need to explain their hyphenated identities?

What about non-Indian Americans? The immigrant experience is in many ways one that all Americans can identify with, as we explore through Our American Journey: The Smithsonian Immigration/Migration Initiative.

Non-Indian Americans know Indian Americans as their friends, neighbors, co-workers, and classmates. I want non-Indian Americans and Indian Americans to walk away with an understanding of the vast and deep cultural, political, and professional contributions Indian immigrants and IndianAmericans have made in shaping U.S. history. I’d like them to have a sense of Indian American beyond stereotypes found in media and popular culture. And I’d like all visitors to walk away asking questions like: Who is American and who is a foreigner? What is American history? Whose stories should be told as part of the history of the United States?

The first major national exhibit to focus on the experiences of Indians in America, Beyond Bollywood: Indian Americans Shape the Nation opens February 27 at the National Museum of Natural History and runs through August 16, 2015.

Masum Momaya is a museum curator at the Asian Pacific American Center and an expert on women’s and human rights, race and social justice. Momaya developed all content for Beyond Bollywood: Indian Americans Shape the Nation, the largest exhibition designed by the Center to date.

James Mayer serves as the assistant to the director and assists with public affairs at the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage.

Wolves Are Returning to Oregon–but Not All Locals Want Them

Smithsonian Magazine

An Oregon wolf looks straight into the lens of a photographer. The animals have returned to eastern Oregon and are spreading through the state. Photo courtesy of Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

In 1947, the last wolf in Oregon was shot and killed for a bounty fee of $5 in the wilderness near Crater Lake.

Now, after more than 50 years of absence, the animals are staging a comeback. They have established themselves in the eastern quarters of the state and are subsisting on local elk and deer herds–and, as might be expected, the occasional cow and sheep. Also quite predictably, the return to Oregon of one of the world’s most maligned and persecuted predators has Oregonians passionately polarized on the matter, with many people fully in support and others adamantly opposed to the animals’ reappearance. Livestock ranchers have led the campaign to stop the return, which is occurring naturally–although only as a result of the 1995 reintroduction of Canadian gray wolves to the Yellowstone National Park region, in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho. Those animals have thrived and flourished, and experts expect that the same could happen in Oregon.

The first wolf to return to Oregon in modern times entered the state from Idaho in 1999. The animal, known as B-45F to researchers, was trapped and sent home to Idaho by wildlife officials, however. Subsequently, two other wolves were hit and killed by cars in Oregon, and one was shot by a poacher, according to Sean Stevens, executive director of the wildlife and natural space advocacy group Oregon Wild, who recently spoke with me by telephone. But in 2007, an animal wearing a remote tracking collar and named B-300 by researchers, who had tranquilized and handled it in Idaho, entered Oregon. Here, it put down roots, and in the summer of 2009, officials with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife confirmed the presence of three adult wolves and three pups in Wallowa County–the first wolf pack in Oregon in about six decades.

Wolf “B300″ was the first to enter Oregon ans remain there. The wolf would form a pack and has since produced multiple pups. Photo courtesy of Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Now, at least 30 wolves in five packs live in Oregon, according to Michelle Dennehy, communications officer with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

“We want confirmation of two pups for an adult pair before we consider it a pack breeding pair,” she said. “By now, all five packs have produced multiple pups.”

Dennehy says that the Department of Fish and Wildlife has confirmed 54 head of Oregon livestock killed by wolves as of July, with most kills being cattle, a few sheep and one a goat. Several wolves have been legally killed, she said, as a result of habitual depredations on livestock, and Dennehy says that the state of Oregon, along with Defenders of Wildlife, have joined resources to reimburse farmers who have suffered losses. The state’s Department of Agriculture has allocated a reimbursement fund, too.

Even before the first modern-times wolf moved permanently into Oregon, officials foresaw the potential for the species’ return and the problems the wolves might cause. And so the Oregon Wolf Conservation and Management Plan was enacted in 2005 by the state of Oregon with the intention of readying the state and its people for the presence once again of the gray wolf. The wolf plan outlines just how to respond to wolves that prey upon livestock and at what point Oregon wolves might be removed from the state’s endangered species list as their numbers grow, among other issues of question. Ranchers, hunters, hikers, conservationists, government land managers and other stakeholders took part in developing the wolf plan, Dennehy said.

According to Stevens at Oregon Wild, roughly 1,000 wolves could probably live in Oregon’s vast wild spaces, mostly in the arid eastern half of the state. Ranchers of cows and sheep are hardly thrilled at the idea, however. They have already helped write and introduce multiple legislative efforts to block the wolves’ return–one a proposal that, had it become law, would have allowed a person to shoot a wolf onsite if he or she deemed the animal to be a threat.

It would have also done something else controversial. “It would have taken the management of an endangered species out of the hands of government and given it to private citizens,” Stevens said.

It was the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association that introduced that proposed law. This year, the same group introduced another effort to rid the state of wolves–a piece of legislation calling for a state of emergency in eastern Oregon because of the wolves’ presence. Both proposals were rejected by lawmakers.

More than 1 million cows live in the state, according to Stevens. In 2010, he says, 55,000 of those cows died prior to entering the slaughterhouse of disease, nasty weather and other non-wolf causes.

But Rod Childers, the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association’s Wolf Committee Chairman, says that ranchers are suffering far greater financial losses because of wolves than have been conveyed to most media. Childers, who raises cattle in Wallowa County, says that for every dead cow or sheep confirmed as a victim of wolves, several more wolf kills go unconfirmed, due either to inconclusive evidence or the entire lack of a carcass. That is, some animals simply go missing–and they’re doing so at about double the rate that they once did. Childers says he is certain that the wolves are involved.

“Because nothing’s changed but the wolves,” he explained. “We’ve always had cougars, bears, coyotes. But now wolves are here, and our losses are up.”

Childers says that in Wallowa County, 26 head of cattle have been confirmed as killed by wolves. But 86 other animals have disappeared–almost certainly, he says, killed by wolves.

And the reimbursement plan is not a fair deal, Childers says, because it only provides payment for confirmed wolf depredations. Childers also points out a more subtle loss that he and other ranchers are enduring: Their animals have been returning from their high country summer pastures thinner than they once did–a result, he explains, of being continually harassed and attacked by wolves. Such underweight animals bring ranchers less profits than properly fattened cows might.

“But that’s not accounted for in the wolf plan,” he says.

While tempers flare and the occasional bullet flies at a wolf, the biggest wild canine is still expanding its range. Now, as officials and others expect continued growth in the wolf population, another question arises: How far will the wolf go? In fact, one wolf, a collared animal named OR-7, became the first wolf to go west of the Cascades since the bounty days—and eventually entered California. The animal has been nicknamed “Journey,” and the California Department of Fish and Game is tracking and publicizing the animal’s approximate whereabouts via the Internet.

The wolf situation in Oregon is extraordinary because the animals are coming back on their own–a rare example of a large predator actually expanding its range instead of, as is the more common pattern, diminishing ever closer to extinction. Moreover, the fact that their swelling population has spilled into Oregon’s more vacant regions indicates that, aside from a few conflicts with livestock, there may be room for the animals.

Today, wolf tourism could be a new draw for visitors to wolf country. Oregon Wild has led tours to eastern Oregon each of the past three years to show groups of about 10 people the state’s wolf habitat—and to meet the ranchers who believe their livelihoods may be imperiled by the animals. Check the organization’s website to learn more.

Size matters. Some wolf opponents are arguing that the wolves now recolonizing Oregon are larger than those wiped out last century. If true, this would be more than just interesting. It would also mean that the animals need more food and are more capable of taking down large head of livestock. While it may be true that the wolves of Oregon today are of different genetic roots than those that inhabited the state in the past, scientists and experts have denied that they are substantially larger.

What do you think? If wolves want back in to Oregon and California, should we welcome them?

Looking for Liberty in the Nation We Build Together

National Museum of American History

A lobby with glass cases of objects and a stairway. The ceiling is red. In the center is a lego statue resembling the statue of liberty, resting on a large rectangular display with short glass walls surrounding it that have signage on it.

On June 17, 1885, a French ship, the Isère, arrived in New York Harbor laden with very special cargo—more than 200 crates filled with enormous pieces of copper and iron that, once assembled, would form the towering sculpture dubbed "Liberty Enlightening the World"—what the world knows today as the Statue of Liberty. Here at the National Museum of American History, we had our own statue delivery. On March 2, 2017, representatives from the LEGO Group arrived with a 9 ½ foot (or 300 brick) high model of the statue for installation on the museum's first floor. Once installed, it became the first landmark of the theme we celebrate this year—"The Nation We Build Together."

A large Lego statue lies on top of white packing material on a platform in the lobby of the museum. A man in a cranberry colored sweatshirt looks down at the Lego structure.

She might be front and center, but this LEGO model isn't the only Lady Liberty in the building. In fact, a journey through "The Nation We Build Together" offers multiple versions of this iconic sculpture, each with its own unique story and meaning.

On June 28, the museum will debut our newly transformed 2W wing featuring exhibition spaces and hands-on experiences in which we invite our visitors to explore the ideas and ideals of the American people. Among these are two major exhibitions that provide a fresh and challenging look at ways in which those same people made the nation. American Democracy: A Great Leap of Faith explores how the nation's revolutionary decision to abandon a monarchy and base its government on the sovereignty of the people left each generation that followed to answer fundamental questions: Who should participate and what role should they have? What common principles and ideas are necessary to make government by the people possible? Many Voices, One Nation maps the cultural geography of America to discover how the many voices of its people have shaped the nation and its communities, fulfilling the Latin aphorism on the Great Seal of the United States—E Pluribus Unum ("Out of many, one").

Amidst hundreds of objects newly on display, both of these signature exhibitions feature multiple depictions of the Statue of Liberty. Certainly, the meanings of Lady Liberty are as diverse as the nation she represents. She has been a monument to the abolition of slavery, a token of the lasting friendship between the people of France and the United States, a figure of welcome for those looking for a new life in America, a beacon of democracy, even a site of protest and dissent. Regardless of how she has been understood over our history, the Statue of Liberty has been, and continues to be, an essential piece of the nation we build together. Beginning June 28, we invite you to explore all that our new wing has to offer, and while there, take some time to look out for Lady Liberty and think about the meanings she might hold for you.

 

A bronze Statue of Liberty sits atop a replica base made from a white material. It shows its age with black marks on the white part.

This small model of the Statue of Liberty, made of terra-cotta and tin, was created around 1884 and based on maquettes created by the statue's sculptor, Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi. It was donated to the Smithsonian in 1885, around the same time that the original statue was making its way to America aboard the Isère. Models like this one were sometimes distributed to individuals who donated funds for construction. That same year, there was a renewed push in fundraising under the direction of Joseph Pulitzer, the publisher of New York World. Through impassioned calls for action in the newspaper, the World received over $100,000 to complete the statue's pedestal, with most donations under one dollar.

Two views of a large and elaborate clock. It has many sections with great detail, including scenes of nature with boats and people. There is a Statue of Liberty model standing on one side of it, which is zoomed in on in the lefthand image.

The Statue of Liberty appears as one among numerous symbols and scenes that represent and celebrate the history of the United States adorning this amazing timepiece. The Historical Clock of America is an example of the short-lived phenomenon of building monumental clocks in the late 19th century, when U.S. clockmakers pushed to craft grand creations to rival the cathedral clocks of Europe. It was designed and built around 1893 by a Boston craftsman and stands over 12 feet high and 7 feet wide. Like other such clocks of its day, the Historical Clock of America toured the world, and was displayed as far away as Australia and New Zealand. One of the highlights is a clockwork procession of U.S. presidents, from George Washington to Benjamin Harrison. The Statue of Liberty flanks the clock across from a representation of the Soldiers' National Monument at Gettysburg.

A statue or object resembling the statue of Liberty. The robe and crown are a mint green color and The statue holds an apple up. There are more in a container she holds at her side. She has dark hair and olive brown skin.

Created by artist and community organizer Kat Rodriguez, this interpretation of the Statue of Liberty was a focal point for a protest march organized by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) in 2000. As part of the "March for Dignity, Dialogue, and a Fair Wage," she was carried by marchers over 230 miles between Fort Myers and Orlando, Florida, as a call for improved conditions and higher wages for agricultural workers. Rodriguez's depiction of Lady Liberty, complete with tomatoes in place of her typical torch and tablet, serves to connect the struggles of diverse migrant farmworkers with the promise of America as represented by the original Statue of Liberty.

The front of a brochure or booklet. It is a mint color like the statue of liberty, which is illustrated on the cover with some text.

Originally published in 1943 by the Immigration and Naturalization Service of the U.S. Department of Justice, this guide features the Statue of Liberty prominently on the cover. The manual was intended for judges, civil servants, and others "to dignify and emphasize the importance of citizenship." This included details on the form and meaning of citizenship ceremonies, as well as the history and celebration of "I Am an American Day." In its section of "Source Material," the guide also featured patriotic hymns, songs, and speeches, as well as excerpts from foundational documents that immigrants to the United States were expected to study to earn their citizenship, such as the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.

A menorah with small Statue of Liberties instead of basic candleholders. There is an eagle sticking up in the center.

Manfred Anson (1922–2012) designed this unique Hanukkah lamp (or menorah) to celebrate the centennial of the Statue of Liberty in 1986. Born in Germany, Anson was able to escape to Australia as a refugee from the Nazi regime prior to the war. In 1963, he immigrated to America to join his sister, Sigrid, who had survived the Holocaust. Anson became an avid collector of memorabilia that celebrated his new home. In creating the design for his menorah, Anson used 19th-century souvenir Liberty figurines as the basis for the candle holders, and topped the lamp with another common American symbol, the eagle. Each small statue is also engraved with the name of a person or event central to Jewish history.

A statue of a woman in a clingy cream gown. She wears a hat with stars on the brim and is touching the tip of a shield which is set on the ground next to her. She holds one arm up in the air, finger pointed.

Before the Statue of Liberty became the foremost female figure to symbolize the nation, there was Columbia. Commonly depicted as the personification of the United States, this goddess of liberty usually wore a Phrygian cap, the classical symbol of freedom (and a feature shared by Marianne, the symbolic representation of the French Republic). This hand-carved wooden version of Columbia was erected atop the pilothouse of the side-wheel steamboat Mary Powell in 1864. Known as the "Queen of the Hudson," the Mary Powell transported passengers daily during the summer months between Kingston, New York, and Lower Manhattan. The figure of Columbia, our first "Lady Liberty," was saved when the Mary Powell was retired and broken up for scrap in 1923.

Tim Winkle is the deputy chair and curator in the Division of Home and Community Life.

Posted Date: 
Tuesday, June 13, 2017 - 08:00
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The Murky History of Foosball

Smithsonian Magazine

In the best tradition of skulduggery, claim and counterclaim, foosball (or table football), that simple game of bouncing little wooden soccer players back and forth on springy metal bars across something that looks like a mini pool table, has the roots of its conception mired in confusion.

Some say that in a sort of spontaneous combustion of ideas, the game erupted in various parts of Europe simultaneously sometime during the 1880s or ’90s as a parlor game. Others say that it was the brainchild of Lucien Rosengart, a dabbler in the inventive and engineering arts who had various patents, including ones for railway parts, bicycle parts, the seat belt and a rocket that allowed artillery shells to be exploded while airborne. Rosengart claimed to have come up with the game toward the end of the 1930s to keep his grandchildren entertained during the winter. Eventually his children’s pastime appeared in cafés throughout France, where the miniature players wore red, white and blue to remind everyone that this was the result of the inventiveness of the superior French mind.

There again, though, Alexandre de Finesterre has many followers, who claim that he came up with the idea , being bored in a hospital in the Basque region of Spain with injuries sustained from a bombing raid during the Spanish Civil War. He talked a local carpenter, Francisco Javier Altuna, into building the first table, inspired by the concept of table tennis.  Alexandre patented his design for fútbolin in 1937, the story goes, but the paperwork was lost during a storm when he had to do a runner to France after the fascist coup d'état of General Franco. (Finesterre would also become a notable footnote in history as one of the first airplane hijackers ever.)

While it’s debatable whether Señor Finisterre actually did invent table football, the indisputable fact is the first-ever patent for a game using little men on poles was granted in Britain, to Harold Searles Thornton, an indefatigable Tottenham Hotspur supporter, on November 1, 1923. His uncle, Louis P. Thornton, a resident of Portland, Oregon, visited Harold and brought the idea back to the United States and patented it in 1927. But Louis had little success with table football; the patent expired and the game descended into obscurity, no one ever realising the dizzying heights it would scale decades later.

The world would have been a much quieter place if the game had stayed as just a children’s plaything, but it spread like a prairie fire. The first league was established in 1950 by the Belgians, and in 1976, the European Table Soccer Union was formed. Although how they called it a ‘union’ when the tables were different sizes, the figures had different shapes, none of the handles were the same design and even the balls were made of different compositions is a valid question. Not a unified item amongst them.

The game still doesn’t even have a single set of rules – or one name. You’ve got langirt in Turkey, jouer au baby-foot in France, csocso in Hungary, cadureguel-schulchan in Israel, plain old table football in the UK, and a world encyclopedia of ridiculous names elsewhere around the globe. The American “foosball” (where a player is called a “fooser”) borrowed its name from the German version, “fußball”, from whence it arrived in the United States. (And, really, you can’t not love a game where they have a table with two teams made up only of Barbie dolls, or that is played in tournaments with such wonderful names as the 10th Annual $12,000 Bart O’Hearn Celebration Foosball Tournament, held in Austin, Texas, in 2009.)

Foosball re-arrived on American shores thanks to Lawrence Patterson, who was stationed in West Germany with the U.S. military in the early 1960s. Seeing that table football was very popular in Europe, Patterson seized the opportunity and contracted a manufacturer in Bavaria to construct a machine to his specification to export to the US. The first table landed on American soil in 1962, and Patterson immediately trademarked the name “Foosball” in America and Canada, giving the name “Foosball Match” to his table.

Patterson originally marketed his machines through the “coin” industry, where they would be used mainly as arcade games. Foosball became outrageously popular, and by the late ’80s, Patterson was selling franchises, which allowed partners to buy the machines and pay a monthly fee to be guaranteed a specific geographical area where only they could place them in bars and other locations. Patterson sold his Foosball Match table through full-page ads in such prestigious national publications as Life, Esquire and the Wall Street Journal, where they would appear alongside other booming franchise-based businesses such as Kentucky Fried Chicken. But it wasn’t until 1970 that the U.S. had its own home-grown table, when two Bobs, Hayes and Furr, got together to design and build the first all-American-made foosball table.

From the perspective of the second decade of the third millennium, with ever more sophisticated video games, digital technology and plasma televisions, it’s difficult to imagine the impact that foosball had on the American psyche. During the 1970s, the game became a national phenomenon.

Sports Illustrated and “60 Minutes” covered tournaments where avid and addicted players, both amateur and professional, traveled the length and breadth of America following big bucks prizes, with the occasional Porsche or Corvette thrown in as an added incentive. One of the biggest was the Quarter-Million Dollar Professional Foosball Tour, created by bar owner and foosball enthusiast E. Lee Peppard of Missoula, Montana. Peppard promoted his own brand of table, the Tournament Soccer Table, and hosted events in 32 cities nationwide with prizes of up to $20,000. The International Tournament Soccer Championships (ITSC), with a final held on Labor Day weekend in Denver, reached the peak of prize money in 1978, with $1 million as the glimmering star for America’s top professionals to reach out for.

The crash of American foosball was even more rapid than its rise. Pac-man, that snappy little cartoon character, along with other early arcade games, were instrumental in the demise of the foosball phenomenon. The estimated 1000 tables a month that were selling around the end of the ’70s crashed to 100, and in 1981, the ITSC filed for bankruptcy. But the game didn’t die altogether; in 2003, the U.S. became part of the International Table Soccer Federation, which hosts the Multi-Table World Championships each January in Nantes, France.

But it’s still nice to know that even in a globalized world of evenrmore uniformity, table football, foosball, csosco, lagirt or whatever you want to call it still has no absolutely fixed idea of what really does constitute the core of the game. The American/Texas Style is called “Hard Court” and is known for its speed and power style of play. It combines a hard man with a hard rolling ball and a hard, flat surface. The European/French Style, “Clay Court” is exactly opposite of the American style. It features heavy (non-balanced) men, and a very light and soft cork ball. Add to that a soft linoleum surface and you have a feel best described as sticky. In the middle is European/German Style,  “Grass Court,” characterized by its “enhanced ball control achieved by softening of components that make up the important man/ball/surface interaction.” And even the World Championships use five different styles of table, with another 11 distinct styles being used in various other international competitions.

Until recently this dilettante approach to the tables and rulebooks also applied to the competitions. Up until a few years ago, Punta Umbrí in Huelva, Spain, hosted the World Table Football Cup Championship in August each year. Well, sort of.  It was played on a Spanish-style table and, according to Kathy Brainard, co-author with Johnny Loft of The Complete Book of Foosball and past president of the United States Table Soccer Federation, “If the tournament is run on a Spanish-made table and has the best players from wherever that table can be found, then it could honestly be called the World Championship of Foosball, on that specific table.” A bit of diplomatic looking down the nose there.

Brainard went on to say that the real championship, called the World Championship of Table Soccer, was played in Dallas on a U.S.-made table and offered $130,000 in prize money. Although, admittedly, that was before 2003, at which time the American associations had to accept the ignominy of being part of a truly international World Championship, and not simply be able to hold their own table football version of the baseball World Series.

In the general roly-poly of life, table football is mainly something that people play for fun in a smoky bar—at least they did before cigarettes were banned.

While British “foosers” might not be able to look forward to winning such large prizes as American players, they still take the game seriously. Oxford University is one of the top table football venues in England, with many highly thought of players on the national scene. Thirty college teams and one pub team play regularly on Garlando brand tables against other top pub and university sides.

Dave Trease is captain of Catz I (St. Catherine’s College, Oxford) who says his position as captain hangs on the fact that he has the only “brush shot” in the university.

“A brush shot is where you have the ball stationary and then you have to flick it very hard at an angle. To be honest, I think it’s more luck than anything, but it looks good when it works.” And he admits that his skills on the Garlando don’t travel.

“I’m rubbish on anything else! I’ve found something I’m good at, where I can have a laugh and not take it all too seriously. And you don’t get any table football hooligans either, although you’ve got to keep an eye on people greasing the ball or jamming the table.”

Ruth Eastwood, captain of Catz II, beat all her female opponents (all five of them anyway) to win the women’s event, ranking her fourth nationally. But having won the tournament, does she see big contracts being offered?

“I don’t think it’s likely, particularly when you take into account that my prize money was only £15 and the prizes for the whole competition were only £300. I don’t think we’re in the same league as the World Championships, but at least I can say I was women’s champion, even if there were only five other women!”

It's probably stretching the imagination just that bit too far to think that table football will every become an Olympic sport, but they probably thought the same about beach volleyball at one time. Sadly, the small figures that populate the field during playing time won't be able to collect the medals themselves. That will have to be left to the flick-wristed humans who control their every move.

Best Bets to See a Big Predator

Smithsonian Magazine

The mountain lion is one of the most common large cats but also one of the hardest to see. Photo courtesy of Flickr user Lil Rose.

Just a few miles south, north and east of San Francisco, where I live, it begins. A vast unbroken range of wild country sprawls north into Canada, east across the desert and the Rockies and south all the way to Patagonia: mountain lion country. Also called the puma, cougar and dozens of backwoods names, the mountain lion, Puma concolor, is one of the most abundant yet elusive large predators in the world. Tens upon tens of thousands of them live in their enormous range, and California alone is home to about 5,000, though most of us would hardly know it if we weren’t told. I’ve hiked and biked throughout the state, covering vast distances of road and trail in mountain lion country. Along the way, I’ve seen a few bobcats, some black bears and many coyotes. I’ll bet that mountain lions have seen me. But in all that time, across all that distance, with so many of the cats tiptoeing through the woods and scrub around me, I have never seen even one mountain lion.

All of which is why it’s so amazing that people can reliably go to India and see a tiger. Just how many individuals of Panthera tigris still live in the wild isn’t entirely clear, but there aren’t many. Estimates place the count as low as 3,200 among all six remaining subspecies. Yet in Bandhavgarh National Park, many or most visitors touring the woods on the back of an elephant will see a Bengal tiger. Ranthambhore and Kanha National Parks are considered the next best places to see the animals, with Jim Corbett, Kaziranga and Panna National Parks all recognized as likely bets, too. (In the forests of Sasan Gir National Park, visitors may even see lions—the last of the nearly extinct Asiatic lions which once ranged from India to Italy but succumbed to human activity where leopards and tigers did not.)

How imperiled is the tiger? Scientists’ premonitions are dire when it comes to the tiger’s odds of going extinct at the hands—well, chainsaws and bullets—of people. In the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, for instance, home to 75 million people, there were 300 tigers in 2006, according to an annual census. In 2011, biologists estimated there were just 257. Meanwhile, organized multi-national groups have recently announced a very ambitious goal of spurring a two-fold increase in tiger numbers throughout Asia. It’s a promising turnaround from the days not so long ago when the Russian government actively and, sadly, successfully advocated for extermination of the now-extinct Caspian tiger. But I wouldn’t take any chances. See this beautiful cat while you can.

Not in the market for a plane ticket to India? Don’t want to deal with the crowds? Already seen your tiger? Then other thrills in big predator viewing are to be had, with almost 100-percent success rates in some places. Here are some good bets:

1) Brown bears of McNeil River Falls, Alaska. From June to September, several dozen of the world’s most powerful bear, Ursus arctos, may gather at once at this famed sprawl of waterfalls to feed on salmon. Visitors have the incredible opportunity to stand as close as several yards from the bears as the animals hunt, lounge, play and fight, seemingly oblivious to their admirers. This rare dynamic between bear and person is due to the tightly regulated arrangement that allows small numbers of people to come, with a guide, and do little else but stand in a designated perimeter on the river bank and watch bears. Want to go? Apply in advance. Note: the bears, which local biologists and guides know by name and appearance, have declined in number, possibly due to bear hunting being allowed near the viewing site.

2) Polar bears of Churchill, Manitoba. The bears are just as big as the browns of southern Alaska, but they’re white, almost 100-percent carnivorous and not opposed to stalking humans. In other words, don’t leave the the tank-like safari vehicles that roll through the frozen scrub here as autumn visitors plaster their faces to the glass. Outside, bears roam the tundra, waiting for the waters to freeze and seal hunting to resume. Polar bears aren’t just a tourist attraction here; Ursus maritimus is an accepted part of life for locals, whose town is dubbed the “Polar Bear Capital of the World.” In Churchill, there is even a temporary holding cell for trouble-maker polar bears, and residents reportedly keep all doors unlocked at all times in case anyone should need to dodge bears wandering the streets.

Polar bears are almost a sure sight for tourists in Churchill, Manitoba. Photo courtesy of Flickr user ucumari.

3) Great white sharks. On the set of Jaws, a very large—and real—great white shark unexpectedly destroyed a miniature diving cage. The footage of the shark, entangled in cables as it thrashed and tore the film prop to pieces before breaking away, was so thrilling to the film crew that they rewrote the script to make a place for the footage in the 1975 blockbuster, a movie that so impacted people’s fear of sharks that Jaws author Peter Benchley said later that he wished he hadn’t written the novel. Anyway, in the real world of modern great white shark tourism, the most feared inhabitants of the oceans don’t destroy cages. Rather, at the Farallon Islands, at Guadalupe Island, off Cape Town and in South Australia, the sharks swim gracefully around the cages, nosing out hunks of tuna and mammal flesh thrown from the boat while paying customers ogle through the bars.

4) Wolves of Yellowstone. In 1995, gray wolves from Canada were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park. Canis lupus, known as livestock-killers, somewhat fictionalized as man-eaters, had been exterminated viciously from most of the lower 48 states. Though wolf opponents, many of them big-game hunters or ranchers, decried the effort, the predators are back now, numbering 1,600 or more throughout the Rockies and Cascades. In Yellowstone National Park, about 100 wolves are consistently observed, especially in the winter months. To see the wolves of Yellowstone, visitors can drive through the park and watch out the windows as they go, or hope to see wolves while hiking in the backcountry. Anyone stands the chance of seeing a wolf or even a pack, but the likelihood is improved by hiring a guide.

5) Crocodiles of Northern Australia. One of the nastiest creatures on earth, the estuarine crocodile is the sort of animal one should want to see from a distance, a large boat or a vehicle. The animals kill and eat people with some regularity in Australia. The huge reptiles, which may reach more than 20 feet in length, were once hunted almost to extinction for their skins, but restrictions on the trade and a crocodile ranching business have allowed the wild population to grow. Today, crocodile viewing is a tourist attraction, with the region to see them being the tropical north of the nation. And while not every excursion will be a success, other encounters can happen when you least want them to. Use caution in croc country—and stay out of murky sloughs and swamps.

We Thought We'd Be Living in Space (or Under Giant Domes) By Now

Smithsonian Magazine

The International Space Station is known for a distinct lack of personal space, with crews packed into phone booth-sized beds and assaulted by continuous light, sound and surveillance. But if things go right during an upcoming SpaceX resupply mission, currently scheduled for March 2016, the station could soon be a bit roomier and more relaxing.

After the Dragon capsule reaches the station, the ISS’s robot arm will pull out a device called the Bigelow Aerospace Expandable Activity Module, or BEAM—and the future of housing might just change forever. 

The 13-foot-long module is being referred to by Bigelow Aerospace and NASA as an “expandable habitat,” but to the average viewer it will look more like a big white balloon. Think of it as a kind of spare room—one that cost NASA a cool $17.8 million. BEAM will arrive uninflated, but once it’s attached to one of the station’s nodes it will blow up, creating a new—if not entirely expansive—section of the ISS. 

“I jokingly refer to it as a largish New York apartment,” says Mike Gold, director of D.C. operations and business growth for Bigelow Aerospace. BEAM isn’t intended to be used as living quarters, he notes. Rather, it will serve as a proof of concept for expandable habitats. 

Gold sees another benefit to the module: a bit of peace and quiet. “Acoustically, it’s going to be the quietest location aboard the International Space Station,” he says. Will astronauts use it as a respite from the always-on environment of the bigger station? Right now, it’s unclear. In a release, NASA says only that the station will be measured and tested over time. But Gold thinks the module has the potential as a place for science experiments, stowage and other activities. After all, the concept has been tested before: In 2006 and 2007, the company launched the Genesis I and II missions, when expandable habitats headed into orbit via converted Russian ICBMs. 

The limited plans for the habitat are a far cry from the “space hotel” label that has long been associated with the company. Bigelow Aerospace is owned by hotelier and real estate mogul Robert Bigelow, whose plans to take his empire to space have been the source of speculation and sometimes mockery since he launched the company in 1998.

That moniker irritates Gold, who calls it a “pernicious misconception.” He says that tourism is just a portion of the company’s long-term plan. The term has been in use since the module that inspired Bigelow Aerospace’s current projects, a NASA-designed inflatable crew quarters project known as TransHab

TransHab turned out to be just a pipe dream—the project’s funding was cut in 2000 and it literally never left the ground. Bigelow snatched up NASA’s patent rights and used them to develop the technology. 

If BEAM isn’t a space hotel, the company’s next project sure seems like one. Now that BEAM is ready to deploy, the company is perfecting the B330, an even larger expandable habitat that could be used for housing, research and development or astronaut training. 

Unlike BEAM, the B330, named for its 330 cubic meters of internal space, is a completely independent module—it doesn’t need to hook up to the International Space Station, and it can support a crew of up to six. B330s can even be hooked up to one another to form free-floating commercial stations like Alpha Station, a proposed space station that Bigelow Aerospace claims could help nations develop their astronaut corps, perfect space travel and conduct research. 

On its website, the company says it will offer things like one-off astronaut flights ($26.75 to $36.75 million per seat), leased space station space ($25 million for exclusive use of a schoolbus-sized space over a two-month period) and naming rights to Alpha Station ($25 million a year). Gold downplays the idea of space tourism, but doesn't discount it entirely. Perhaps it will be more lucrative—and realistic—once the company’s ambitious Olympus project, named for its godly 2,100 cubic meters of space, is complete.

There are still challenges to be addressed. Right now, the company relies on commercial resupply missions to the space station launched by companies like SpaceX to get its smaller modules into orbit. But commercial rockets are small, and many don't have enough power to launch the 20-ton B330. Bigelow notes that it designed that unit to fly on an Atlas V rocket, a dependable vehicle that has a launch capacity of just over 40,000 pounds. To get its more ambitious habitats off the ground, Bigelow Aerospace will probably need a rocket like NASA’s upcoming Space Launch System, or SLS, which will have an eventual lift capacity of 286,000 pounds.

Are expandable space stations (hotels or otherwise) the buildings of the future? Perhaps. Some people may ditch the idea of space tourism and become full-time space residents in structures like Bigelow's Olympus. Some may flee Earth due to overpopulation (there's an 80 percent probability that the world's population will grow to around 11 billion by the end of this century, and there are no signs of slowing).

And then there's the cool factor—some people may find that they simply prefer to live in microgravity surrounded by spectacular views of planets and stars all the time.

But commercial space projects are susceptible to funding issues, delays and development traffic jams, all of which could send the most optimistic predictions for the future of travel and housing tumbling back to Earth. And for every futuristic habitat success, there are scores of stalled or vastly altered projects. Here are a few of the other places we thought we’d be living by now:

In a Frank Lloyd Wright-Designed Utopia 

The architect Frank Lloyd Wright envisioned Broadacre City as a sprawling, Utopian suburbia. Residents would take futuristic helicopters as public transportation and live in giant skyscrapers, as seen here. (Copyright © Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, Scottsdale, AZ. All rights reserved. The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation Archives (The Museum of Modern Art | Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Columbia University))

Frank Lloyd Wright didn’t just design gorgeous houses and museums—in the 1930s, he conceived of Broadacre City, a utopian alternative to the hustle and bustle of the typical metropolis. Wright was so enchanted by his idea of giving one acre to each family and ensconcing them in a sprawling suburbia without social problems or skyscrapers that he promoted it until his death in the late 1950s. 

Beneath Lots and Lots of Glass

Seward's Success, a proposed city in Alaska, was to be a no-cars-allowed city under glass where everyone rode trams and monorails. (Courtesy Popular Mechanics, March 1970 issue)

Does the thought of a trapped city full of monorails and monoliths make you think of Logan’s Run? The movie could well have been inspired by Seward’s Success, a metropolis planned in Anchorage, Alaska during the 1960s. The glass-covered city was designed for 40,000 residents complete with monorails and aerial trams—no cars allowed. Alas, Seward’s Success was never to be: The project was delayed and eventually canceled. 

In Walt Disney World 

Walt Disney wasn’t content as a groundbreaking animator and amusement park impresario—he wanted to change the face of U.S. cities, too. In the 1960s, Disney hatched an idea called “Project X” and began acquiring hundreds of thousands of acres of land in Orlando, Florida. The city would feature homes of the future designed by American corporations along a gigantic urban corridor. Eventually, the project was renamed E.P.C.O.T.—Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow—but it was downgraded to a section of Disney World after Disney’s death in the late 1960s. 

In a Domed City in Minnesota

Few future cities came as close to fruition as the Minnesota Experimental City, or MXC. In 1969, Minnesota’s state legislature approved the formation of a steering committee to figure out new ways to solve problems of urban sprawl and quality of life. A 75,000-acre site was chosen and plans made to develop the community of Swatara into an environmentally friendly, car-free city with a gigantic geodesic dome. But legislators balked in the 1970s, and today Swatara is more ghost town than modern metropolis. 

In a Carbon-Neutral Megalopolis

Dongtan Eco-City was supposed to be a carbon-neutral city of a half-million inhabitants near Shanghai, but it was never built. (Courtesy LafargeHolcim Foundation)

There are planned cities, and then there are planned cities. Dongtan, near Shanghai, was to be one such city—a gigantic “eco-city” designed to house 500,000 residents over the course of just 30 years. Dongtan was to house everything from a wind farm to power plants run by rice husks. All housing was to be built within a seven-minute walk from public transportation. But the carbon-neutral paradise never happened: Despite predictions that by 2050, the city would be as large as Manhattan, the project is now over a decade behind schedule. 

In the Ultimate Space Colony 

A proposed space colony designed by NASA researchers in the 1970s. (NASA Ames Research Center)

In the 1970s, NASA’s Ames Research Center conducted a series of studies on the feasibility of colonizing space. The “summer studies,” as they came to be called, looked at whether space colonization was technically feasible. The answer was yes—as long as humans lived in spheres, cylinders or doughnuts complete with artificial gravity, plenty of greenery and shopping malls galore. One study acknowledged that though it might feel weird for people to live in such different environments, the effects could be mitigated by things like providing large vistas “to make the habitat large enough to lessen the sense of its being manmade.” Of course, the settlements never came to be—but who’s to say that NASA won’t one day brush off its old space colony suggestions?

Editor's Note: This story has been updated to better reflect the current launch capabilities for Bigelow's space habitats.

Eleven Museums and Memorials Honoring the 75th Anniversary of D-Day

Smithsonian Magazine

On June 6, 1944, one of the largest amphibious military assaults in history took place on 50 miles of coastline in Normandy, France. D-Day, also known as Operation Neptune, allowed more than 160,000 Allied troops to take an important victory in the fight against the Nazis. While upwards of 9,000 Allied soldiers were killed or injured, the assault allowed more than 100,000 soldiers to push across Europe, liberating those under control by Nazi Germany as they went. It was the beginning of the end for World War II.

This year, for the 75th anniversary of D-Day, institutions across the country will be hosting events and exhibitions to honor the memory of those who lost their lives and to celebrate the victories of veterans.

National Air and Space Museum's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center; Chantilly, VA

Join the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum for a one-day commemoration honoring the events of D-Day on June 6 at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center. Aside from access to the museum’s regular collection of D-Day artifacts, visitors will have a full day’s schedule to enjoy, complete with concerts by the Air Force Strings, viewings of D-Day: Normandy 1944 3D in the Airbus IMAX Theater and presentations on the D-Day missions of the Martin B-26B-25-MA Marauder Flak-Bait, the Douglas C-47 and the 320th Barrage Balloon Battalion. Also throughout the day, guests will be able to take selfies with Rosie the Riveter, take docent-led D-Day tours of the museum, and explore a collection of World War II aviation photos, both in color and virtual reality.

The National WWII Museum; New Orleans, LA

On display now until October 20, "In Memory of What I Cannot Say" is the National WWII Museum’s first art exhibit. It showcases the work of D-Day veteran Guy de Montlaur, a French fine art painter who expressed his experiences in the French army through colorful abstract paintings. Montlaur suffered several wounds in hand-to-hand combat on D-Day, and had to carry shrapnel in his face for the rest of his life. He died in 1977. The art is supplemented with profiles of people that served with Montlaur, photography, text panels and some of his wartime effects. Some of the highlights of the exhibit include Montlaur’s self portrait, and vivid representations of a beach, fire and a morning in June.

The National D-Day Memorial; Bedford, VA

This week, the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Virginia, the American town that suffered the greatest per capita losses on D-Day, is hosting The Final Salute. On June 6, the memorial’s hours will be extended until 9 p.m., and visitors can witness an aerial tribute to WWII veterans with 12 different planes, take flights on historic aircraft (for an extra fee), and watch films Saving Private Ryan and Tuesday Mourning. Historic flights and viewings of Tuesday Mourning continue until Sunday. Other special events include an outdoor concert of WWII-era songs on June 7; a parade and brass band concert on June 8; and a chapel service at the memorial on June 9.

National Museum of American History; Washington, D.C.

Beginning June 6, the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History will have hand-selected World War II artifacts on display in its "75th Anniversary of D-Day" exhibition—from a grappling hook, one of just two left in the world that Army Rangers used to climb up the steep Point du Hoc cliffside in Normandy, to a grave marker inscribed with "unknown soldier," the only one in an American museum of the type used at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial in Colleville-sur-Mer, France. Other items on display include gun casings, ID tags, a canteen and photographs.

Field Museum; Chicago, IL

Now through February 2, 2020, the Field Museum is turning the spotlight on American Indians and their contribution to the military—in particular Penobscot elder and retired master sergeant Charles Norman Shay and his namesake park on Normandy’s coast. Shay, now 94 years old, has made a conscious effort to return to Omaha Beach every year to perform traditional American Indian ceremonies as a way to honor fallen servicepeople. He also works with fellow tribe members to locate and identify unmarked graves in France. The museum worked with the Trickster Gallery, a Native-owned arts business in Illinois, to create the its "D-Day Warriors: American Indians in the Military" exhibition, which includes photos, video interviews with Shay, and artifacts, including a U.S. WWII infantryman’s helmet that was used in France. “Twenty-two percent, or nearly one in four Native people, have served in the military,” Joe Podlasek, CEO of the Trickster Gallery and a citizen of the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe Tribe, said in a release. “We have served in the United States Military in higher rates than any other ethnic group since the Revolutionary War—and that history needs to be shared at its fullest.”

National Museum of the U.S. Air Force; Riverside, OH

Visitors to the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force on June 6 will have a chance to participate in an entire day of activities dedicated to the memory of D-Day. There will be artifact displays, trivia, living history reenactors, a wreath laying ceremony and C-47 flyover, and screenings of D-Day movies. Beyond that, through the end of the year, visitors can experience "D-Day: Freedom From Above," the museum's new 3,500-square-foot augmented reality exhibit. Equipped with "HistoPad" interactive tablets, guests can interact with virtual artifacts, maps and unpublished photos, and immerse themselves in 360-degree recreations of what it might have been like for the 82nd and 101st Airborne divisions on D-Day.

The International Museum of World War II; Natick, MA

It took two years for the military to plan out the D-Day invasion, and the International Museum of World War II is launching a new exhibition intending to cover every aspect, from planning and communication to the actual invasion and the aftermath. "The 75th Anniversary of D-Day," which runs from June 7 until the end of the year, has more than 100 artifacts, including a rare German Enigma codebook used to forecast the weather; defused explosives camouflaged as coal; “Ruperts,” or dummy paratroopers that were meant to confuse the Germans about the intended landing spot; a remote-controlled explosive tank called a Goliath used by the Germans; a letter from Dwight Eisenhower, then the supreme commander of Allied Forces, to his wife; and a wedding dress made from one of the paratroopers’ silk parachutes. “Nothing like it had ever happened in history,” the International Museum of WWII’s founder and director Kenneth Rendell said in a release. “It was unimaginable to all but a few military leaders. The enormous effort that went into the complex and detailed planning, as seen here in this exhibition, is evidence of how crucial it was that this invasion be successful. On the 75th anniversary of this remarkable endeavor, we’re proud to showcase our unmatched collection highlighting all aspects of D-Day.”

Palm Springs Air Museum; Palm Springs, CA

Norman Sirota was meant to be in the D-Day attack as part of a silent glider team—but instead, he was injured during a training flight. In order to honor the servicepeople that did participate in the mission, with its 50 percent casualty rate, Sirota's family has partnered with the Palm Springs Air Museum to stage the Norman Lawrence Sirota D-Day Gliders' Exhibit about gliders, the teams that piloted them, and the vehicles and supplies they carried. Must-sees include an original glider hanging above the exhibit, the reconstructed interior of several gliders, and maps, pictures and timelines, including troop numbers and locations. The exhibit is now part of the museum’s permanent displays.

D-Day Conneaut; Conneaut, OH

From August 15 to 17, experience the country’s largest D-Day reenactment in Conneaut, Ohio. The annual event is free, and visitors will have a chance to meet with more than 1,800 living history reenactors; thank actual veterans from WWII for their service; visit recreations of Allied, French and German camps; and experience reenactments of training exercises, four battles and the D-Day landing itself (on the shores of Lake Erie). The daily schedules include rides in an authentic Higgins boat, exhibits of artifacts like artillery and sand table maps, church services, lectures, movies, mortar demonstrations, and open houses at Conneaut's North Coast WWII History Museum.

FDR Presidential Library and Museum; Hyde Park, NY

Between now and January 6, 2020, visitors to the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum will get an inside look at the friendship and collaboration between FDR and Winston Churchill that led to a successful D-Day invasion. The exhibition, titled "D-Day: FDR and Churchill's 'Mighty Endeavor,'" features maps and classified cables from Roosevelt’s secret Map Room, an ECM Mark II SIGABA cipher machine used to encode messages between the two leaders, and a massive touch-screen table that tracks the movement of all 1.2 million servicepeople involved in the landing operations.

Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum; Pittsburgh, PA

Through the end of June, the Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum has a special display of D-Day artifacts from the museum’s collection. Highlights of the "D-Day Pittsburgh 75 Exhibit" include a Medal of Honor posthumously given to Technician Fifth Grade John J. Pinder, Jr., 16th INF 1ST, who was severely wounded in the invasion but still managed to deliver a radio to establish communications that led to the success of the mission; a 48-star flag that flew from Landing Craft Infantry 540 on Omaha Beach; a dress uniform a soldier wore home after the war ended; and artifacts U.S. soldiers picked up after the invasion, like a German machine gun and a British helmet.

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