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Can’t Picture a World Devastated by Climate Change? These Games Will Do it for You

Smithsonian Magazine

A woman peers through goggles embedded in a large black helmet. Forest sounds emanate from various corners of the room: a bird chirping here, a breeze whispering there. She moves slowly around the room. On the wall, a flat digital forest is projected so observers can get a rough idea of her surroundings, but in her mind’s eye, this undergrad is no longer pacing a small, cramped room in a university lab. Thanks to that black helmet, she's walking through the woods.

In a minute, she's handed a joystick that looks and vibrates like a chainsaw, and she's asked to cut down a tree. As she completes the task, she feels the same sort of resistance she might feel if she were cutting down a real tree. When she leaves this forest, and re-enters the "real" world, her paper consumption will drop by 20 percent and she will show a measurable preference for recycled paper products. Those effects will continue into the next few weeks and researchers hypothesize it will be a fairly permanent shift. By comparison, students who watch a video about deforestation or read an article on the subject will show heightened awareness of paper waste through that day—but they will return to their baseline behavior by the end of the week.

The tree-cutting study is one of many that Stanford University has conducted in its Virtual Human Interaction Lab over the last several years in an attempt to figure out the extent to which a simulated experience can affect behavior. And it’s part of a growing body of research that suggests virtual experiences may offer a powerful catalyst for otherwise apathetic groups to begin caring about issues and taking action, including on climate change. That's important because while time spent in nature has been proven to be quite beneficial to human health, whether or not humans repay the favor tends to rely on the type of nature experiences they have in their youth. In a 2009 study published in the journal PLoS ONE, researchers from the University of Pretoria in South Africa found that while people who spent time hiking and backpacking were more willing to support conservation efforts a decade or more later, those who had visited national parks or spent time fishing as kids were actually less inclined to do anything to support the environment. An earlier (2006) study on the relationship between nature experiences and environmentalism found that while those who had spent their youth in "wild" nature, defined as hiking or playing in the woods, were more likely to be environmentalists as adults, those who had been exposed to "domesticated" nature—defined as visits to parks, picking flowers, planting seeds, or tending to gardens—were not. Given the unlikelihood of every child having a "wild" nature experience, researchers are on the hunt for other ways to cultivate environmentally responsible behavior.

A screen shot of the virtual reality environment used in the tree-cutting study at Stanford University. (Image: Virtual Human Interaction Lab/Stanford University)

The latest work with virtual reality builds upon roughly half a century of behavioral studies that indicate humans' willingness to shift behavior is directly correlated to our sense of control.

Climate change, like many large-scale environmental issues, is a problem over which few people feel they have a direct impact—for better or worse. As researchers Sun Joo (Grace) Ahn and Jeremy Bailenson wrote in a forthcoming paper in the journal Computers and Human Behavior, individual actions taken at a micro-scale, like failing to recycle paper or support certain policies, can contribute over time to negative environmental consequences, like deforestation, which in turn affects climate trends over many years. But the long time frames and vast scale create a dangerous disconnect. While 97 percent of peer-reviewed scientific research points to human activities as a primary contributor to climate change, only half of Americans see the link.

Proponents of virtual reality think it could help drive home the impacts of climate change and make people feel empowered to do something about it. "When individuals feel that their behaviors directly influence the well-being of the environment, they are more likely to be concerned about and actively care for the environment," Ahn and Bailenson wrote.

Bailenson, a cognitive psychologist and founding director of Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab, sees particular value in virtual reality related to climate change because it allows for a combination of real experience with boundless possibilities: The brain treats the virtual experience as real but, at the same time, knows that anything is possible in the simulation.

"One can viscerally experience disparate futures and get firsthand experience about the consequences of human behavior," Bailenson said.

Teacher Tech

Researchers working on both virtual and augmented reality—in which mobile apps on either smartphones or tablets overlay information on reality—are increasingly experimenting with these technologies as learning tools. Multiple universities, including Stanford, Harvard, and MIT, are piloting the use of these augmented and virtual reality in middle and high schools. And museums, which enjoy more flexibility, operating outside the realm of curricula requirements and test scores, have wholeheartedly embraced the idea. Science museums and zoos on both coasts are using the technology in exhibits and deploying augmented reality apps that visitors can use on their phones or on museum-issue mobile devices to learn more about what they're seeing.

“Understanding complicated issues like climate change requires a shift in perspective in terms of how you're willing to see the problem,” said Amy Kamarainen, co-director of Harvard's EcoMOBILE and EcoMUVE projects. “We're trying to do that by immersing kids in environments that have elements similar to real-world systems but are somewhat simplified to meet kids where they are. We put them in complex worlds but give them the tools to be able to unpack what's happening."

EcoMUVE, a multi-user, desktop computer-based virtual environment that features a simulated pond ecosystem, was developed by Harvard University to teach students basic biological processes like photosynthesis and decomposition as well as systems thinking about complex environmental issues. The Harvard team recently launched EcoMOBILE, a corresponding augmented reality app, which enables students to take the EcoMUVE experience with them, collect data out in the field, and "see" what's going on below the surface and what happened in an ecosystem in the past. EcoMUVE was initially piloted in schools in Massachusetts and New York, but is now available for download by any school, and is being used across the United States and in other countries as well, including India and Mexico. EcoMOBIL is currently being piloted at schools in Massachusetts and New York.

A handful of Massachusetts high schools have also piloted an MIT-developed augmented reality app called Time Lapse 2100, which requires users to set various policies that would affect the environment and then shows them what would happen if those policies were enacted. This fall, Bay Area schools will be pilot-testing Stanford's Coral Reef, a virtual reality game in which participants become a piece of coral in a reef affected by ocean acidification. All three universities are also working with museums and science learning centers to deploy their technology in learning experiences.

"I was initially not sold on the idea of augmented reality," said cognitive scientist Tina Grotzer, a professor in Harvard's graduate school of education and the co-principal investigator for both the EcoMUVE and EcoMobile projects. Grotzer spent several years as a teacher herself before heading to Harvard to research how kids learn, particularly how they learn science. Grotzer said it was the technology's potential to drive home environmental science lessons that won her over. "With physics, you can do an experiment, and kids can see instantly what you're talking about. With environmental science, we tried to do a decomposition experiment, but you set the experiment up and then 12 weeks later something happens. By then the kids have completely lost interest."

That's because it's difficult for kids to grasp anything that they cannot immediately see, Grotzer explained. Augmented reality enables teachers to extend that vision, or what scholars call an attentional frame, and make the unseen more tangible. For example, teachers take kids to a nearby pond and use EcoMOBILE to show them how the town dumped garbage there 60 years ago and nearly filled in what is today a pristine, natural pond. The app shows them how plants around the pond are turning sunlight into energy and reveals what microscopic pond life is doing under the water's surface. It also walks them through the real-world collection of water samples, which it helps them to analyze.

"I've tagged along on these field trips and have seen how the technology actually immerses them more in the surroundings, rather than distracting them," Grotzer said. Students use smartphones to take photographs and notes, documenting what they're seeing: the clarity of the pond water, the weather, descriptions of their samples, different species of bugs and birds. And they can learn at their own pace too. “On a regular field trip, if a student had a question they'd have to leave that moment that spurred the question and go ask the teacher,” Grotzer said. “The teacher would be facilitating the needs of 30 kids. This way they can find the answer themselves and stay in the moment, stay engaged with what they're looking at."

In Stanford's Coral Reef students embody a tall piece of purple coral off the coast of Italy, near Ischia. Over the course of a 14-minute lesson, they are taken through the experience of being coral in a body of water affected by ocean acidification. At first, the surrounding ocean is filled with an abundance of sea life. Waves around the reef are simulated by floor vibrations and ocean sounds. A lab technician periodically touches the participant with a stick in synchronized motions to coincide with what he sees as a fishing net hitting the reef. Then acidification sets in. Sea life begins to die off all around. The reef begins to lose its color, as does the piece of coral the participant has embodied.

Bailenson and his team have tested the simulation with college students and shown that it resulted in students caring more about what is happening to coral reefs. The team followed those participants over weeks, compared them with a group that had simply watched a video about how ocean acidification affects coral reefs, and found the change in attitude catalyzed by the virtual reality experience lasted longer than any shifts stirred by the video.

Smartphones for All

Whether schools opt for an augmented reality tablet app that leads students around the schoolyard pointing out, say, the the biological process at work in the compost pile, or a landscape-based smartphone app (like EcoMOBILE or Time Lapse 2100) for use on a field trip, or a desktop experience (like EcoMUVE) that can be used in the school's computer lab they face steep tab for both hardware and software. Hardware for virtual reality simulations remains cost prohibitive for most schools, although costs are coming down: virtual headsets like the Oculus Rift now cost consumers $350. A school could potentially purchase a few headsets for a multiuser virtual reality game that four students could play at a time while the rest of the class engages with an augmented reality component on desktops nearby.

Still, despite an increasing variety of options and declining prices, schools looking to put these technologies to use in the classroom face a number of challenges.

If virtual and augmented reality are to have a measurable impact on how future generations understand and approach climate change, access across all socioeconomic classes will be key. Kamarainen said that in some higher-income school districts students could use their own devices.

In many school districts around the country, however, the majority of students do not have smartphones. Mobile phone company Kajeet has begun to address this issue by offering schools data packages that provide WiFi with school-managed filtering so they can set time limits for usage, enabling kids to take home school-provided tablets for only school-related work.

In the schools where Kamarainen works, Harvard provides smartphones to students for use on field trips and pays for Kajeet's WiFi and data service (two to three cents per megabyte per device). The Harvard apps work on both smartphones and tablets, so it's feasible that any of the thousands of U.S. schools that have either purchased or been awarded tablets over the past two years could sign up with Kajeet to enable the use of these apps on and off campus. Industry analysts estimate that U.S. schools will purchase an additional 3.5 million tablets by the end of 2014, and multiple companies, including Intel, AT&T, Fox, and Qualcomm have launched nonprofit initiatives to dole out tablets in schools.

The Principal's Office

Even if companies like Kajeet succeed in making hardware more affordable for schools, virtual and augmented reality developers still face a long road to see their programs widely adopted in education. Logistical challenges include securing funding for pilot tests, budgeting funds to purchase new technology, training staff, and winning buy-in from parents, teachers, and administrators.

"There are clashes all the time between the reality of what goes on in a classroom and what researchers would like to see happen in a classroom," said Paul Olson, an outreach specialist at the Games Learning Society, or GLS, at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, who taught seventh grade for more than three decades. He said that a lot of his time these days is spent explaining to researchers what life is like "in the trenches" and encouraging teachers to experiment with GLS games to motivate those students who "really don't respond to a lecture or a chapter in a book but are all over programming something."

This is where museums incorporating these technologies might fill some gaps. "A museum has the freedom to step outside the rigid guidelines and requirements that schools are held to," said Dan Wempa, vice president of external affairs for the New York Hall of Science in Queens, which sees roughly 1,200 students per day on field trips during the school year. The museum’s latest exhibit Connected Worlds, created with input from Kamarainen, will immerse visitors in a digital, interactive world that shows how their actions affect the environment. In one part of the exhibit, visitors add water to the environment and a plant flourishes. In another, they add too much and cause flooding. Taken together, the exhibit puts nature into fast forward to help students see how their individual and communal actions hurt or sustain plant and animal life, clean water, and fresh air.

"Students have a germ of knowing that water is important, but they say ‘I didn't realize that it's THAT important, and I didn't realize that what I do over here affects someone way over there,’" Wempa said.

The PTA

"I'm not keen on my kids being immersed in this type of technology," said Megy Karydes, a marketing consultant and mother of two (ages 7 and 9) in Chicago. "We very much limit our kids' electronics exposure because I don't want them addicted. On the other hand, I realize they need to be aware of what's going on in the world too. I balance it, but if I had to err on the side of caution, I'd rather we go hiking than have them staring at a screen."

Karydes' concerns are common among parents. "There are two ways that parents tend to look at these games," said Eric Klopfer, who directs MIT’s Scheller Teacher Education Program, developed Time Lapse 2100, and has been researching the use of augmented reality in education since 2009. "One is, 'Great. My kid is outside, but he still has the phone in his hand,' and the other is that the mobile device and the game are actually getting their kid outside."

Kamarainen and Grotzer have also heard parental concerns about technology interrupting kids' experience of nature, and they have worked hard to design games that they feel complement a relationship with nature rather than detract from it.

The EcoMOBILE pilot has included around 1,000 students so far, and Kamarainen said they consistently talk about how the augmented reality piece helps them to see things going on in their communities that they never paid attention to before. "They say this helps open their eyes about the environment that's around them," Kamarainen said. "They're more aware and conscious of it, and they're paying closer attention to the natural world."

Ultimately, proponents say that these games not only complement and improve students' relationship with nature but also teach them how to think systematically and to see their own roles in harming or improving their world.

"The younger kids say, 'I get to create a world!'” Wempa said, “and the older kids say, 'I like this because it felt like I was in control and, as a kid, I'm never in control of anything.' That carries over. They understand that actions have consequences and that they can affect outcomes."

This article was produced by Climate Confidential and released for re-use under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

T-6 Hours, 50 Minutes for Apollo 16

National Air and Space Museum
Watercolor painting on paper. T-6 Hours 50 Minutes for Apollo 16, 16 April 1972. A page from a spiral-bound sketchbook that contains other accessioned artworks. A dark blue square with brownish-red tints in the center of the page is defined by a thin blue border. Bright white and blue beams radiate from the middle of the image, illuminating a small white rocket standing in the very center. Text in the lower right corner of the entire page reads: "The view from the steps of the NASA briefing stand at the press site…The barge canal reflects the waiting rocket at six o'clock on the morning it will come to life." Text in the upper left margin reads: "-A giant cathedral of light…and tonight it will be gone."

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

How Smithsonian Curators Are Rising to the Challenge of COVID-19

Smithsonian Magazine

As families, communities and colleagues around the world grapple in their own ways with the invisible threat of the novel coronavirus, humankind shares an unusually acute sense of traversing a period of deep historical import. Once-bustling downtown areas sit deserted while citizens everywhere sequester themselves for the common good. Social media platforms and teleconferencing services are ablaze with the messages of isolated friends and loved ones. As medical workers risk their lives daily to keep ballooning death tolls in check, musicians and comedians broadcast from their own homes in the hopes of lifting the spirits of a beleaguered nation. It is a time of both ascendant empathy and exposed prejudice, of collective fear for the present and collective hope for a brighter future.

It is, in short, a time that demands to be documented. Stories institutional, communal and personal abound, and it is the difficult mandate of museums everywhere to collect this history as it happens while safeguarding both the public they serve and their own talented team members. This challenge is magnified in the case of the Smithsonian Institution, whose constellation of national museums—19 in all, 11 on the National Mall alone—has been closed to visitors since March 14.

How are Smithsonian curators working to document the COVID-19 pandemic when they are more physically disconnected from one another and their public than ever before? The answer is as multifaceted and nuanced as the circumstances that demand it.

In a statement calling for a Rapid Response Collecting Task Force to address the COVID-19 pandemic, the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History announced it would be "pursuing leads to many kinds of objects and archival materials from medical history and business history to social structures and culture." (Photo illustration by Meilan Solly / Photos via Getty Images)

In recognition of the sociocultural impact of the current situation, the curatorial team at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History (NMAH) has assembled a dedicated COVID-19 collection task force even as it has tabled all other collection efforts. Alexandra Lord, chair of the museum’s Medicine and Science Division, explains that the team first recognized the need for a COVID-specific collection campaign as early as January, well before the museum closures and severe lockdown measures took effect nationwide.

They've been working with their partners since before the crisis, she says. “The Public Health Service has a corps of over 6,000 officers who are often deployed to deal with emerging health crises, some of them work at CDC and NIH. We started talking to them during the containment stage and started thinking about objects that would reflect practitioners as well as patients.”

These objects range from personal protection equipment like N95 respirators to empty boxes emblematic of scarcity, from homemade cloth masks to patients’ hand-drawn illustrations. Of course, physically collecting these sorts of items poses both logistical and health concerns—the last thing the museum wants is to facilitate the spread of COVID through its outreach.

“We have asked groups to put objects aside for us,” Lord says. “PHS is already putting objects to the side. We won’t go to collect them—we’ll wait until all of this has hopefully come to an end.”

Image by NMAH. This camphor- and chloroform-laced liniment was first marketed around 1895. Following the deadly influenza pandemic of 1918, the Jones Medicine Company claimed their product contained “germ-destroying ingredients” that would positively prevent an attack of this “frightful disease.” (original image)

Image by Collection of NMAAHC, gift from the family. In the collections of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, a World War I diary belonging to soldier Roy Underwood Plummer chronicles his day-to-day experiences, including the 1914 flu epidemic. (original image)

Image by NMAH. Before the advent of antitoxin and vaccines, diphtheria was an ever-present source of terror. Known as "the strangling angel," the disease causes a thick build up in the throat and nose that makes breathing and swallowing extremely difficult. Intubation was a method used to open the throat to prevent asphyxiation. This intubation kit, 1886-1891, contains tools for inserting and removing the gold-plated tubes, which were used to keep the patient’s airway open. (original image)

Image by NMAH. This vaccine was formulated specifically to combat the H2N2 “Asian strain” of the influenza virus which caused the pandemic of 1957-58. Scientists at Walter Reed Medical Center obtained a sample of the virus in April 1957, and the first vaccines were ready for distribution by September. (original image)

The artifacts collected in this push will feed into Lord’s upcoming “In Sickness and In Health” exhibition, a scholarly look at infectious disease in America across hundreds of years of history. Already deep in development before the COVID crisis, the exhibition—which will include studies of two antebellum epidemics and one pandemic followed by a survey of the refinement of germ theory in the 20th century—will now need a thoughtful COVID chapter in its New Challenges section to tell a complete story.

A complete medical story, that is; the economic ramifications of the coronavirus are the purview of curator Kathleen Franz, chair of the museum’s Division of Work and Industry.

Franz works alongside fellow curator Peter Liebhold to continually update the “American Enterprise” exhibition Liebhold launched in 2015, an expansive overview of American business history that will need to address COVID’s economic impact on companies, workers and the markets they serve. “For me, as a historian of business and technology,” Franz says, “I’m looking at past events to give me context: 1929, 1933, 2008. . . I think the unusual thing here is this sudden constriction of consumer spending.”

Image by NMAAHC. The U.S. Coast Guard used this rescue basket during Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The artifact is now held by the National Museum of African American History and Culture. (original image)

Image by NMAAHC . Also held by NMAAHC, is a door scrawled with rescue markings from the recovery effort following Hurricane Katrina. (original image)

As federal and state governments continue to place limits on the operations of non-essential businesses, it is up to Franz and her colleagues to document the suffering and resilience of a vast, diverse nation. Usually, she says, “We collect everything: correspondence, photos, calendars. . . and we may collect that in digital form. But we’re still working out the process.” Above all, she emphasizes the need for compassion now that Americans everywhere are grieving the loss of family, friends and coworkers.

Museum as Educator

With many busy parents suddenly thrust into de facto teaching jobs with the closures of schools across the country, the museum has placed special emphasis on shoring up its educational outreach. From the beginning, says director Anthea Hartig, the museum “privileged K-12 units, because we knew that’s what parents would be looking for.” Some 10,000 Americans responded to a recent survey offered by the museum, with most pressing for a heightened focus on contemporary events. Now is the perfect time for the museum’s leadership to put that feedback into practice.

Hartig sees in this crisis the opportunity to connect with the public in a more direct and sustained way than ever before. Thousands have already made their voices heard in recent discussions on social media, and fans of the Smithsonian are taking on transcription projects for the museums with fresh zeal. Beyond simply livening up existing modes of engagement, though, Hartig hopes that her museum will be able to seize on the zeitgeist to make real strides with its digital humanities content. “Our digital offerings need to be as rich and vibrant as our physical exhibitions,” she says. “They should be born digital.”

An airplane panel recovered after the 9/11 terrorist attacks became part of the American History Museum's collections. (NMAH)

For inspiration amid all the flux and uncertainty, Hartig is reflecting on the NMAH’s response to the terrorist attacks that rocked the nation nearly 20 years ago. “We learned a lot through 9/11, where the museum was the official collecting authority for Congress,” she says. That moment in history taught her the value of “quietness and respect” when acquiring artifacts in an embattled America—quietness and respect “matched by the thoroughness of being a scholar.”

Hartig appreciates fully the impact of the COVID moment on America’s “cultural seismology,” noting that “every fault line and every tension and every inequity has the capacity to expand under stress, in all our systems: familial, corporate, institutional.” She has observed a proliferation in acts of goodness paralleled by the resurfacing of some ugly racial prejudice. Overall, though, her outlook is positive: “History always gives me hope and solace,” she says, “even when it’s hard history. People have come out through horrors of war and scarcity, disease and death.” History teaches us that little is unprecedented and that all crises, in time, can be overcome.

Inviting Participation

Benjamin Filene, NMAH’s new associate director of curatorial affairs, shares this fundamental optimism. On the job for all of two months having arrived from North Carolina Museum of History, the experienced curator has had to be extremely adaptive from the get-go. His forward-thinking ideas on artifact acquisition, curation and the nature of history are already helping the museum to effectively tackle the COVID crisis.

“For a long time, I’ve been a public historian committed to helping people see contemporary relevance in history,” he says. Against the backdrop of the coronavirus crisis, he hopes to remind Smithsonian’s audience that they are not mere consumers of history, but makers of it. “We [curators] have something to contribute,” he says, “but as a public historian, I’m even more interested in encouraging people to join us in reflecting on what it all means.”

And while hindsight is a historian’s best friend, Filene maintains that historians should feel empowered to leverage their knowledge of the past to enlighten the present as it unfolds. “I personally resist the notion that it has to be X number of years old before it’s history,” he explains. “We’ll never have the definitive answer.”

He views history as an ongoing refinement that begins with contemporaneous reflection and gradually nuances that reflection with the benefit of added time. “Even when you’re talking about something a hundred years ago, we’re continually revisiting it,” he says. “We can ask questions about something that happened five months ago or five days ago. But no doubt we will be revisiting this in five years, in 50 years.”

With that future reconsideration in mind, Filene’s priority now is the collection of ephemeral items that could be lost to history if the Smithsonian fails to act quickly. “Using our established community networks, full range of digital tools, publicity outreach,” and more, Filene hopes the museum can persuade Americans everywhere to “set aside certain items that we can circle back on in a few months.”

Image by Collection of NMAAHC. A button promotes American Red Cross programs to help African victims of HIV and AIDS in the 1980s. (original image)

Image by NMAAHC, gift of Jack Vincent in memory of Marlon Riggs. A poster advertises a 1996 exhibition of the NAMES Project Foundation AIDS Memorial quilt. The artifact was gifted to NMAAHC in memory of filmmaker, poet and gay rights activist Marlon Riggs. (original image)

Image by NMAH. A panel from the famous AIDS Memorial Quilt Panel, 1985-1990, honors Roger Lyon, who died in 1984 shortly after testifying before Congress to appeal for funding to combat the growing epidemic. The quilt was first displayed on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. in 1987. (original image)

Paralleling the efforts of NMAH, the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) is mounting its own campaign to document the impact of COVID-19 across the country. Curator William Pretzer frames the museum’s objective as “collecting as a way of building community.” In the coming days, NMAAHC will be issuing a “plea” to “organizations, community groups, churches” and individuals to pinpoint artifacts emblematic of this time and allow the museum to collect them.

Many of these materials will be digital in nature—diaries, oral histories, photographs, interviews—but Pretzer makes clear that internet access will not be a prerequisite to participation. “We’re going to work with local organizations,” he says, “without violating social distancing, to talk to members of their communities who maybe aren’t online.” Then, at a later date, NMAAHC can employ these same relationships to preserve for posterity “the signs people put up in their stores, the ways they communicated, the works of art they created, the ways they educated their children.”

Since its founding, NMAAHC has committed itself to building relationships with African Americans nationwide and telling emphatically African American stories. Pointing to the heightened tensions of COVID-era America, Pretzer says this collection effort will offer the chance to “analyze topics we often talk about casually—the digital divide, health care, educational gaps, housing problems—under this pressure cooker circumstance, and see how communities and individuals are responding.” He stresses that the museum’s interest in these narratives is far from strictly academic. “People want to have their stories heard,” he says.

A 2015 "Black Lives Matter" T-shirt resides in the collections of the National Museum of African American History and Culture after being donated by Baltimore City Council Member Sharon Green Middleton. (Collection of NMAAHC, gift of Glenard and Sharon Middleton)

Pretzer likens this all-out community push to the one the museum mounted when collecting Black Lives Matter materials in 2014, which told a richly textured story using artifacts from community groups, business owners, activists, photographers and law enforcement personnel. “It took us to Ferguson, it took us to Baltimore,” he recalls. “That’s when we made connections with local churches." Now, as then, Pretzer and the other curators at the museum hope to uncover the “institutional impact” of current events on African Americans, “which will by nature demonstrate inequalities in lived experience.”

The Smithsonian’s curatorial response to COVID-19 extends beyond NMAH and NMAAHC, of course—every Smithsonian knowledge hub, from the Anacostia Community Museum to the National Air and Space Museum to the National Museum of the American Indian, is reckoning with COVID in its own way. But the various teams are also collaborating across museum lines like never before, supporting one another logistically as well as emotionally and sharing strategic advice. Pretzer says that roughly ten Smithsonian museums have put together “a collaborative proposal to conduct a pan-Institutional collection effort” and are currently seeking funding to make it happen. The concept is a 24-hour whirlwind collection period “in which we would try to collect from around the country the experiences of what it’s like to be under quarantine. And from that initial binge, we would create connections that would allow us to continue.”

As far as physical artifacts are concerned, all Smithsonian museums are taking the utmost care to avoid acquiring items that Americans may still need and to thoroughly sanitize what materials do come in to ensure the safety of museum staff.

“What we’re learning is to give ourselves a lot of room,” says Hartig. “We’re trying to be courageous and brave while we’re scared and grieving. But we’re digging deep and playing to our strengths.”

Ultimately, she is proud to be a part of the Smithsonian during this trying time and is excited for the Institution to nurture its relationships with all the communities and individuals it serves in the weeks and months ahead. “We’re very blessed by our partnership with the American people,” she says. “What can we be for those who need us most?”

What William Shatner Would Put on His Gravestone

Smithsonian Magazine

Few performing artists of the past 60 years are as iconic, or as mystifying, as William Shatner. The captain of the Starship Enterprise cut a heroic figure in the 1960s, when I watched the pilot episode of “Star Trek” as a preteen. Today, the hale and engaging actor, director, documentarian, author, singer, sportsman and rapper —who turned 81 in March—still seems possessed of boundless energy and bluster.

In many of his stage and screen appearances (and certainly in his music), Shatner often appears to teeter on the edge of self-parody. Face to face, he’s a warm hearted raconteur who inhabits his affable egoism without explanation or apology. I interviewed Shatner in June, shortly after the whirlwind national tour of his one-man show, Shatner’s World: We Just Live in It. On July 28 his new documentary about “Star Trek” fans, “Get A Life!”, premieres on Epix.

So how long do I have you for? How fast do I have to talk?

No; it is I who have to talk fast. It’s you who have to think fast. Half an hour?

Then we better get started!

I thought we already were.

You’re almost as well-known for your singing as for your acting. Did you grow up around music?

No, there was very little music in the house, little common music. My father would come home on Saturday afternoon, after six days of work. He’d grab a bite, lie down for a couple of hours, and play the Metropolitan Opera. That was the only music in the house: The Met from New York. So I never sang, or played an instrument. It was only when I got to McGill University that I began to write and direct and act in college musicals, and to admire Al Jolson and think: "God, if only I could do that."

What qualities in a song inspire you to create an interpretation?

I turn to my conservative Canadian, simplistic, uncomplicated background in music. I like to be able to hum the song and understand the lyrics. I love the musicality of words. Think about children's fairy tales. Fairy tales are supposed to be stories of inherent fears, dramatizations of human nightmares and cares and worries. The words "Once upon a time"—don't they suggest music? Sometimes words carry their own rhythm. I love to say the words and have the music enhance the words so that it aids and abets and supplants and supports those rhythms.

Some actors are like blank slates. I think of Meryl Streep in The Iron Lady. You can dress that woman up any way you like, and she will embody a totally different character. In your work, though—from the early Twilight Zone episode Nightmare at 20000 Feet through Shatner’s World— there's a substrate; like the base layer artists use to prepare a canvas.

What an interesting simile.

Can you define the single quality that unites all of your work?

That's me. Because my opinion is that even Meryl Streep, as wonderful as she is, can only bring herself to the role. For example, let’s look at you: a curly-haired guy who's athletic and intellectual, now being the observing reporter. I can play that. But I bring to it me, because all I’m doing now is imitating you. So even in The Iron Lady: Meryl puts on the wig, learns the smile and assumes—assumes—the persona. But she cannot bring anything else but her.

In your roles there's often a commanding tone; you’re cast as the man in charge. Is that who you really are?

It never used to be. But what has happened is, though I still realize I don't know what I’m doing, I've come to the conclusion that nobody else does, either—[nobody] knows what they're doing or knows what I’m doing. So in that mass confusion, there has to be a voice saying, "Well, here's where I am.”

I recently saw your documentary The Captains, in which you interview the four other actors who have commanded the Enterprise and its spin-offs. In the film, you make the surprising claim that for much of your life you suffered from a sense of inferiority. Do you think you've gotten over that?

Essentially not. It's just I don't put myself in those situations anymore. I once said to a girl—a society girl with whom I was having a fling— "Am I anywhere near the people you go out with? Have I got anything?" That's how badly I felt about myself. I look back on that question, and wonder what kind of a guy I must have been. 

You seem to have a good relationship with the other “Star Trek” actors in The Captains, as well.

 I love each one of those people. I didn't know them before making the film, except for Patrick Stewart—vaguely. Now they’re all friends of mine. I saw them recently, at the ComicCon in Philadelphia. All five captains were there—and all five are my buddies, based on a day or two in their presence.

Let’s talk about your recent one-man show, Shatner’s World. Performing live can be a huge challenge. I once read that many people would rather lose a toe than speak in public.

Well, I think it depends on which toe. If you look at the construction of the foot, that big toe really gives you a lift.

The success of Shatner's World was phenomenal. I wonder if there's a life lesson that you learned from the process of doing that show?

I'll tell you the life lesson I learned—but I don't know if I'll ever be able to use it again. I was first asked to do a one-man show in Australia. I said "Well, I’m not going to fly all the way there and do a one-man show; I've never done it." They said, "We'll send over a director, and you'll talk.

So we essentially put together a sequence of stories—an extended interview, if you will, with some songs and footage. And I had to make each of those stories dovetail. I had to have a beginning, a middle and an end. I realized, I’ve got to say something, I’ve got to have some meaning in what I’m doing. And so I spent months talking to myself, obsessed, trying to find the right words. Because if you find the right word, the rest of the sentence falls into place.

I finished the six cities in Australia and got good reviews. People clapped. And I thought, “Well, that's over; I’ve done that.” Then I was asked to tour Canada. And then I was invited to Los Angeles and New York.

The more I did it, the more rhythm it got. It started to take shape. But it still wasn't good enough. I had one week in LA, trying to put it together. Then I got to New York. We had a couple of rehearsals, and one preview. The night before the preview my wife and I went out to dinner. I wanted to be careful of what I ate, so I ordered a little hamburger. And I got a stomach flu that night.

So I’m looking at a Broadway opening, and I am frightened to death that I’m going to fail. I mean, I’m not going to die; I’ve got enough money in the bank to survive, I'll be able to pay the rent. But to be laughed at—stomach flu means you can’t go from here to there. All I know is, I've never been so frightened of anything.

What did you do?

I had to go on stage. It’s an hour and 40 minutes without an intermission. Somewhere in the middle, I had to stop the show and get to a bathroom. I said,"Ladies and gentlemen, there's been a technical difficulty. Don't move, we'll be back in 10 minutes." I dashed to my dressing room.

There's undoubtedly a life lesson in there somewhere.

The lesson is this: You never know what you can accomplish until you try. The problem is—what people don't talk about—is that a fair number of times, you fail. You try to climb K2, and you die. I faced that fear and was successful. There is a great deal to be gained by trying something that you’re horribly afraid of—because even if you do fail, you've learned something. Even if it’s that you don’t want to fail again!

It's easy to say “no.” Saying “yes” embodies risk. Yes to new ideas, yes to new opportunities, yes to doing a one-man show in whatever town I’m in. That's what my whole show is about: saying yes.

I know you’re a risk taker, but I wonder if you're also a creature of habit. Do you have a morning routine?

I love double rye bread toasted, peanut butter and tea. When my wife brings it to me in bed, it's an act of love that has to be repaid.

You’re known to be a man of many passions—and famously passionate about horses.

Yes; I run a horse show every year. The Priceline.com Hollywood Charity Horse Show, sponsored by Wells Fargo. We’ve raised a lot of money for kids, and now veterans. It benefits over 40 charities.

How did that come about?

People have an affinity towards things; you don't always know where it comes from. I got on a horse when I was about 12 years of age and started galloping around. My mother came up said, "Where did you learn to ride?" I said "This is the first time I've ever been on a horse." I just knew. I just felt the horse.

There followed a long period of time which I didn't have a horse, because horses are expensive. Now I have many, and I've been riding a long time. And on some horses, at some times, I’m in the zone: that Zen zone of unity. You can get there as an actor—and I've also gotten it as an archer. Zen in the Art of Archery [a classic Zen Buddhist text] explains how the bow unites heaven and earth, and the arrow unites you and the target. If you are really in the zone, you will lose that arrow at the most appropriate time. Riding a horse is like that. The horse is talking to you, and you're talking to the horse with your legs and your body. It's a beautiful art form, a legendary art form, as primitive as man: 10,000 years of horses.

What can you tell me about “Get a Life!”, your upcoming documentary on the mythology of “Star Trek”?

We are hard-wired to receive information in story form. If that information is about things that are unknown—death, the future, the universe—we devise stories to fill that gap. This is called mythology, and Star Trek has become mythological. The people who come to the conventions are participating in that mythology. I thought they were coming to see me; now I realize they’re coming to see each other!

In my 1999 book [also called Get a Life!] I did what I thought was due diligence—but I didn't go deep enough. I thought "Mythology? I’m part of a mythology?”

So you now see “Star Trek” as a cultural touchstone, not just as another television show?

It's not just another television show. But what does it tap into? What is the mythology? Well, the mythology is a group of people seeking out life. They're looking for the meaning of life, and of their own lives and relationships; for an explanation of all these mystical, wonderful questions that people ask and for which they have no answer. Their life journey. In Star Trek, we are the heroes; we are Odysseus.

Do you think mythology exists to explain the unexplainable or to set a code of conduct?

Probably both. Mythology needs heroes, and it needs villains. It needs heroes to fail; it needs heroes to struggle. Oh my god, the guy I worship, the guy I love, he fails— and tries again? Fears failing, and then succeeds? Kills the minotaur? Come on!

Is there someone like that for you? Outside of myth?

No; I think maybe I’m embodying it for myself. I don't know.

If you could choose one film clip to summarize your acting career, which one would it be?

I did a segment of a series called Rookie Blue, in which I played a grandfather whose granddaughter was stolen away at the age of 3, in his presence. He sees her now at 11—eight years later—and he comes apart. I followed the script vaguely, but I just let it happen. That could be the purest acting moment I've had in a long time.

The science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke has a wonderful epitaph carved onto his tombstone: “He never grew up, but he never stopped growing.” Any inspirations for your own?

I wish I could be as erudite and as lyrical as that! But I've got mine right now—just in this moment. I hadn't thought of it before: “What was I afraid of?”

That’s really good!

I’ve got to write that down. What was I afraid of? Because I’ve been thinking about that: how the advent of death, to me, is frightening. I’m overwhelmed with fear and sadness. Look at all this! [Shatner gestures at the trees, the sky, the pool.] To leave this!

At 81, do you still have many long-term goals?

Absolutely! On Saturday morning I’m going to Dubai; I’m traveling 22 hours on an airplane, then getting on another airplane for Johannesburg. I’m going to do some work in South Africa, and then I’m going on safari.

I also want to live long enough to see my five beautiful grandchildren see their lives—I had so little time with my own three daughters, who now live close around me. And I've got to make more documentaries!

You seem to have a very far-reaching curiosity. Is there something you still wish to do that you’ve never done before?

I want to discover a truth for myself. Something that is really true: whether it's a piece of scientific knowledge or a philosophical truth. Like, “What was I afraid of?” I hope that's true. But I won't know until it's too late.

Jeff Greenwald, author of Future Perfect: How Star Trek Conquered Planet Earth, is a regular contributor to Smithsonian.

Abraham Lincoln, True Crime Writer

Smithsonian Magazine

Abraham Lincoln was a rail splitter, a riverboat hand, an inventor, a poet and importantly, a lawyer. Lincoln also knew how to tell a good story. In 1841, he defended William Trailor, one of three brothers on trial for murder, in a case that surprised everyone in the courtroom. A few years later, Lincoln published the following short story based on the strange case. Lincoln dramatized the facts a bit to abide by the conventions of the true crime genre, but the story as he told it here fits well with the facts of the case.

"In the year 1841, there resided, at different points in the State of Illinois, three brothers by the name of Trailor. Their Christian names were William, Henry and Archibald. Archibald resided at Springfield, then as now the Seat of Government of the State. He was a sober, retiring and industrious man, of about thirty years of age; a carpenter by trade, and a bachelor, boarding with his partner in business—a Mr. Myers. Henry, a year or two older, was a man of like retiring and industrious habits; had a family and resided with it on a farm at Clary’s Grove, about twenty miles distant from Springfield in a North-westerly direction. William, still older, and with similar habits, resided on a farm in Warren county, distant from Springfield something more than a hundred miles in the same North-westerly direction. He was a widower, with several children.

"In the neighborhood of William’s residence, there was, and had been for several years, a man by the name of Fisher, who was somewhat above the age of fifty; had no family, and no settled home; but who boarded and lodged a while here and a while there, with the persons for whom he did little jobs of work. His habits were remarkably economical, so that an impression got about that he had accumulated a considerable amount of money.

"In the latter part of May in the year mentioned, William formed the purpose of visiting his brothers at Clary’s Grove, and Springfield; and Fisher, at the time having his temporary residence at his house, resolved to accompany him. They set out together in a buggy with a single horse. On Sunday Evening they reached Henry’s residence, and staid over night. On Monday Morning, being the first Monday of June, they started on to Springfield, Henry accompanying them on horseback. They reached town about noon, met Archibald, went with him to his boarding house, and there took up their lodgings for the time they should remain.

"After dinner, the three Trailors and Fisher left the boarding house in company, for the avowed purpose of spending the evening together in looking about the town. At supper, the Trailors had all returned, but Fisher was missing, and some inquiry was made about him. After supper, the Trailors went out professedly in search of him. One by one they returned, the last coming in after late tea time, and each stating that he had been unable to discover any thing of Fisher. The next day, both before and after breakfast, they went professedly in search again, and returned at noon, still unsuccessful. Dinner again being had, William and Henry expressed a determination to give up the search and start for their homes. This was remonstrated against by some of the boarders about the house, on the ground that Fisher was somewhere in the vicinity, and would be left without any conveyance, as he and William had come in the same buggy. The remonstrance was disregarded, and they departed for their homes respectively.

"Up to this time, the knowledge of Fisher’s mysterious disappearance, had spread very little beyond the few boarders at Myers’, and excited no considerable interest. After the lapse of three or four days, Henry returned to Springfield, for the ostensible purpose of making further search for Fisher. Procuring some of the boarders, he, together with them and Archibald, spent another day in ineffectual search, when it was again abandoned, and he returned home. No general interest was yet excited.

"On the Friday, week after Fisher’s disappearance, the Postmaster at Springfield received a letter from the Postmaster nearest William’s residence in Warren county, stating that William had returned home without Fisher, and was saying, rather boastfully, that Fisher was dead, and had willed him his money, and that he had got about fifteen hundred dollars by it. The letter further stated that William’s story and conduct seemed strange; and desired the Postmaster at Springfield to ascertain and write what was the truth in the matter. The Postmaster at Springfield made the letter public, and at once, excitement became universal and intense. Springfield, at that time had a population of about 3500, with a city organization. The Attorney General of the State resided there. A purpose was forthwith formed to ferret out the mystery, in putting which into execution, the Mayor of the city, and the Attorney General took the lead. To make search for, and, if possible, find the body of the man supposed to be murdered, was resolved on as the first step. In pursuance of this, men were formed into large parties, and marched abreast, in all directions, so as to let no inch of ground in the vicinity, remain unsearched.

"Examinations were made of cellars, wells, and pits of all descriptions, where it was thought possible the body might be concealed. All the fresh, or tolerably fresh graves at the grave-yard were pried into, and dead horses and dead dogs were disintered, where, in some instances, they had been buried by their partial masters. This search, as has appeared, commenced on Friday. It continued until Saturday afternoon without success, when it was determined to dispatch officers to arrest William and Henry at their residences respectively. The officers started on Sunday Morning, meanwhile, the search for the body was continued, and rumors got afloat of the Trailors having passed, at different times and places, several gold pieces, which were readily supposed to have belonged to Fisher.

"On Monday, the officers sent for Henry, having arrested him, arrived with him. The Mayor and Attorney Gen’l took charge of him, and set their wits to work to elicit a discovery from him. He denied, and denied, and persisted in denying. They still plied him in every conceivable way, till Wednesday, when, protesting his own innocence, he stated that his brothers, William and Archibald had murdered Fisher; that they had killed him, without his (Henry’s) knowledge at the time, and made a temporary concealment of his body; that immediately preceding his and William’s departure from Springfield for home, on Tuesday, the day after Fisher’s disappearance, William and Archibald communicated the fact to him, and engaged his assistance in making a permanent concealment of the body; that at the time he and William left professedly for home, they did not take the road directly, but meandering their way through the streets, entered the woods at the North West of the city, two or three hundred yards to the right of where the road where they should have travelled entered them; that penetrating the woods some few hundred yards, they halted and Archibald came a somewhat different route, on foot, and joined them; that William and Archibald then stationed him (Henry) on an old and disused road that ran near by, as a sentinel, to give warning of the approach of any intruder; that William and Archibald then removed the buggy to the edge of a dense brush thicket, about forty yards distant from his (Henry’s) position, where, leaving the buggy, they entered the thicket, and in a few minutes returned with the body and placed it in the buggy; that from his station, he could and did distinctly see that the object placed in the buggy was a dead man, of the general appearance and size of Fisher; that William and Archibald then moved off with the buggy in the direction of Hickox’s mill pond, and after an absence of half an hour returned, saying they had put him in a safe place; that Archibald then left for town, and he and William found their way to the road, and made for their homes. At this disclosure, all lingering credulity was broken down, and excitement rose to an almost inconceivable height.

"Up to this time, the well known character of Archibald had repelled and put down all suspicions as to him. Till then, those who were ready to swear that a murder had been committed, were almost as confident that Archibald had had no part in it. But now, he was seized and thrown into jail; and, indeed, his personal security rendered it by no means objectionable to him. And now came the search for the brush thicket, and the search of the mill pond. The thicket was found, and the buggy tracks at the point indicated. At a point within the thicket the signs of a struggle were discovered, and a trail from thence to the buggy track was traced. In attempting to follow the track of the buggy from the thicket, it was found to proceed in the direction of the mill pond, but could not be traced all the way. At the pond, however, it was found that a buggy had been backed down to, and partially into the water’s edge. Search was now to be made in the pond; and it was made in every imaginable way.

"Hundreds and hundreds were engaged in raking, fishing, and draining. After much fruitless effort in this way, on Thursday Morning, the mill dam was cut down, and the water of the pond partially drawn off, and the same processes of search again gone through with.

"About noon of this day, the officer sent for William, returned having him in custody; and a man calling himself Dr. Gilmore, came in company with them. It seems that the officer arrested William at his own house early in the day on Tuesday, and started to Springfield with him; that after dark awhile, they reached Lewiston in Fulton county, where they stopped for the night; that late in the night this Dr. Gilmore arrived, stating that Fisher was alive at his house; and that he had followed on to give the information, so that William might be released without further trouble; that the officer, distrusting Dr. Gilmore, refused to release William, but brought him on to Springfield, and the Dr. accompanied them. On reaching Springfield, the Dr. re-asserted that Fisher was alive, and at his house.

"At this the multitude for a time, were utterly confounded. Gilmore’s story was communicated to Henry Trailor, who, without faltering, reaffirmed his own story about Fisher’s murder. Henry’s adherence to his own story was communicated to the crowd, and at once the idea started, and became nearly, if not quite universal that Gilmore was a confederate of the Trailors, and had invented the tale he was telling, to secure their release and escape. Excitement was again at its zenith. About 3 o’clock the same evening, Myers, Archibald’s partner, started with a two horse carriage, for the purpose of ascertaining whether Fisher was alive, as stated by Gilmore, and if so, of bringing him back to Springfield with him.

"On Friday a legal examination was gone into before two Justices, on the charge of murder against William and Archibald. Henry was introduced as a witness by the prosecution, and on oath, re-affirmed his statements, as heretofore detailed; and, at the end of which, he bore a thorough and rigid cross-examination without faltering or exposure. The prosecution also proved by a respectable lady, that on the Monday evening of Fisher’s disappearance, she saw Archibald, whom she well knew, and another man whom she did not then know, but whom she believed at the time of testifying to be William, (then present;) and still another, answering the description of Fisher, all enter the timber at the North West of town, (the point indicated by Henry,) and after one or two hours, saw William and Archibald return without Fisher. Several other witnesses testified, that on Tuesday, at the time William and Henry professedly gave up the search for Fisher’s body and started for home, they did not take the road directly, but did go into the woods as stated by Henry. By others also, it was proved, that since Fisher’s disappearance, William and Archibaldhad passed rather an unusual number of gold pieces.

"The statements heretofore made about the thicket, the signs of a struggle, the buggy tracks, &c., were fully proven by numerous witnesses. At this the prosecution rested. Dr. Gilmore was then introduced by the defendants. He stated that he resided in Warren county about seven miles distant from William’s residence; that on the morning of William’s arrest, he was out from home and heard of the arrest, and of its being on a charge of the murder of Fisher; that on returning to his own house, he found Fisher there; that Fisher was in very feeble health, and could give no rational account as to where he had been during his absence; that he (Gilmore) then started in pursuit of the officer as before stated, and that he should have taken Fisher with him only that the state of his health did not permit. Gilmore also stated that he had known Fisher for several years, and that he had understood he was subject to temporary derangement of mind, owing to an injury about his head received in early life. There was about Dr. Gilmore so much of the air and manner of truth, that his statement prevailed in the minds of the audience and of the court, and the Trailors were discharged; although they attempted no explanation of the circumstances proven by the other witnesses.

"On the next Monday, Myers arrived in Springfield, bringing with him the now famed Fisher, in full life and proper person. Thus ended this strange affair; and while it is readily conceived that a writer of novels could bring a story to a more perfect climax, it may well be doubted, whether a stranger affair ever really occurred. Much of the matter remains in mystery to this day. The going into the woods with Fisher, and returning without him, by the Trailors; their going into the woods at the same place the next day, after they professed to have given up the search; the signs of a struggle in the thicket, the buggy tracks at the edge of it; and the location of the thicket and the signs about it, corresponding precisely with Henry’s story, are circumstances that have never been explained.

"William and Archibald have both died since—William in less than a year, and Archibald in about two years after the supposed murder. Henry is still living, but never speaks of the subject.

"It is not the object of the writer of this, to enter into the many curious speculations that might be indulged upon the facts of this narrative; yet he can scarcely forbear a remark upon what would, almost certainly have been the fate of William and Archibald, had Fisher not been found alive. It seems he had wandered away in mental derangement, and, had he died in this condition, and his body been found in the vicinity, it is difficult to conceive what could have saved the Trailors from the consequence of having murdered him. Or, if he had died, and his body never found, the case against them, would have been quite as bad, for, although it is a principle of law that a conviction for murder shall not be had, unless the body of the deceased be discovered, it is to be remembered, that Henry testified he saw Fisher’s dead body."

(Special Thanks to the Abraham Lincoln Association for the excerpt)

Lincoln wrote another version of the story in a letter to his friend Joshua Speed shortly after the case concluded. Lincoln’s sense of humor is apparent in the letter, especially in his observation of the courtroom’s reaction to the conclusion of the case:

"Thus stands this curious affair. When the doctor’s story was first made public, it was amusing to scan and contemplate the countenances and hear the remarks of those who had been actively in search for the dead body: some looked quizzical, some melancholy, and some furiously angry. Porter, who had been very active, swore he always knew the man was not dead, and that he had not stirred an inch to hunt for him; Langford, who had taken the lead in cutting down Hickox’s mill-dam, and wanted to hang Hickox for objecting, looked most awfully woebegone: he seemed the “victim of unrequited affection,” as represented in the comic almanacs we used to laugh over; and Hart, the little drayman that hauled Molly home once, said it was too damned bad to have so much trouble, and no hanging after all."

The Best Places to See Wild Horses in North America

Smithsonian Magazine

The wild mustang, free from the constraints of a saddle and spurs, roaming the great expanse with a wind-swept mane, has long been a powerful symbol of the American West, particularly in film and literature. Protected by Congress since the mid-20th century (western ranchers, claiming horses took valuable grazing resources away from cattle, began killing off the herds), wild horses of all breeds have a majestic beauty to them that makes them an attraction for animal and nature lovers. 

While native horses once lived in North America (they died out over 10,000 years ago), the horses seen today are descendants of the domesticated beasts reintroduced to the continent by Spanish explorers in the 16th and 17th centuries. During the hundreds of years of breeding, trading and warring that followed, many domesticated horses were lost, abandoned or let loose, going on to form wild herds throughout the land, most notably out West. Without any natural predators, the herds swelled in size. Before Congress got involved, passing legislation in 1959 an 1971, the horses were subject to unregulated hunting and even poisoning of their water holes. 

Although management efforts have not been without controversy, today, there are approximately 60,000 free-roaming horses in the United States and Canada combined. While the Bureau of Land Management considers the horses to be wild, they more accurately fit the definition of feral, which means they are free-roaming descendants of domesticated horses. Regardless of the label, there is no denying the majestic nature of these beautiful creatures. Preservation societies and government agencies alike encourage the public to visit and view North America’s wild horses, provided it's done from a respectful distance.  

Here are some of the best places to see wild horses in North America: 

 The Virginia Range, Nevada 

Nevada is home to nearly half of the nation's free-roaming horse population. Many of those horses are part of the Virginia Range herd, which occupies a region in the western part of the state.

The herd is often referred to as “Annie’s Horses” because of the decades-long crusade of “Wild Horse Annie” (born Velma Johnston) to protect these and other free-roaming horses across the nation. Johnston originally hailed from Nevada, and these were the horses that inspired her campaign. The 1959 “Wild Horse Annie Act” (P.L. 86-234) was named after her.

Today, the best way to see these horses is to hike the trails east of Reno and find a nearby watering hole.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota 

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The mustang is often used as a living and breathing symbol of the American West. That symbolism is on full display at the 70,467-acre Theodore Roosevelt National Park, home to 100-200 free-roaming horses, which can be seen grazing and galloping across the Dakota badlands.

The best time to see the horses is during the summer, when the young are still part of their familial herds. The park reccomends finding a high point, such as Painted Canyon Overlook or Buck Hill, to better observe the horses. The park also says to look for "stud piles"—fresh manure that stallions use to mark their territory

In recent years, disagreement has arisen over the best way to protect these horses and the lands where they graze. While the culling of feral horses was once a common practice to keep numbers to manageable levels, contraceptive programs are now being studied and researched as a more humane way of limiting the wild horse population at the park. 

The Pryor Mountains, Montana & Wyoming

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The Pryor Mountains are home to about 160 free-roaming horses, who mostly live in the northeast region of the mountain region near Bighorn Canyon. Many of the horses display distinctive markings—a long dorsal stripe along the back and "zebra-like" coloration on their legs—and are smaller than the average wild horse.

The Pryor Mountain Wild Mustang Center believes that the animals are descendents of colonial Spanish horses brought to the area by Native American tribes in the 17th and 18th centuries. Over the years, genetic studies have been done on the horses, and results have shown consistency with Spanish genetic traits.  

The 38,000 acres on which the horses roam are a combination of Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and National Park Service lands. In 1968, after public pressure, Interior Secretary Stewart Udall set aside 31,000 acres as protected public range for the horses. Several years later, additional acreage was given under “The Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act.”  Today, the horses can be seen grazing along Highway 37, but it's worth paying a visit to the Pryor Mountain Wild Mustang Center before venturing out. There, the center promises to provide updated information about the exact location of herds

Outer Banks, North Carolina

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There was a time when the wild horses of North Carolina's Outer Banks numbered in the thousands, but the recent increase in popularity of this beach resort region has made a dramatic impact. Today, some fear that these horses (especially the Corolla herd, which has only 60 animals left) may not be around much longer. 

The horses are believed to be descendants of those that accompanied Spanish explorers in the 16th and 17th centuries. Unable or unwilling to bring the horses back with them to Spain, the explorers left them behind on the beaches of North Carolina. The horse population initially exploded, but in the late 20th century numbers dwindled after roads and vacation rentals were built in earnest. Human intervention, destruction of habitat and car traffic all contribution to the declining populations. 

Some of the herds lack genetic diversity due to high levels of inbreeding, which imperils their surivival. While the horses of Shackleford Banks in the southern region of the Outer Banks have ample genetic diversity, the same can’t be said of the Corolla herd in the north. According to Executive Director of the Corolla Wild Horse Fund Karen McCalpin, isolation has caused the Corolla herd to lack genetic diversity, and inbreeding has eroded their numbers. Survival is not guaranteed. “We are in the process of trying to introduce horses from the Shackleford Banks herd to hopefully increase the genetic diversity,” says McCalpin. 

The horses can be seen most safely (for both human and horse) at wildlife sanctuaries, but they are occasionally spotted in areas with higher human traffic as well. They are often seen near saltwater cordgrass and digging for fresh water. Visitors are asked to stay at least fifty feet away from the horses and to always give them the right of way.

Assateague Island, Virginia & Maryland

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The horses of Assateague first received worldwide attention thanks to Marguerite Henry’s 1947 Newbery Medal-winning book Misty of ChincoteagueBeautiful and tough, these horses have since become immensely popular and a huge tourist draw for the surrounding areas.

While over 300 ponies wander the island in total, they are actually divided up into two different herds. The Maryland horses, which roam the Assateague Island National Seashore, are looked after by the National Park Service. The Virginia horses, which graze at Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, are cared for by the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company. The Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge restricts the herd to 150 adult animals in order to protect the local ecosystem. This restriction has led to the annual late July tradition of the Chincoteague Pony Swim, when the herd is rounded up to swim from Assateague to nearby Chincoteague Island. The next day, young foals are auctioned off to ensure the number stays at 150, with the proceeds donated to the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company. 2015 marked the 90th anniversary of this tradition.

Sable Island, Nova Scotia, Canada

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About 100 miles off the Nova Scotia coast lies the remote Sable Island. The island is sometimes called the “Graveyard of the Atlantic” due to the number of shipwrecks that have occurred along its notoriously dangerous shores. It is also famous for the several hundred horses that roam the expansive sandy landscape.

While the exact origin of the horses is still a mystery, scientists theorize that they are descendents of ones seized by the British when they expelled the Acadians in the mid-18th century. Due to harsh conditions, many of the other animals died out. But the horses survived, roaming free along the sand dunes of Sable Island. Today, there is some controversy around whether the horses should be allowed to stay there. While they are not native, there are arguments that both the ecosystem and horses have adapted to one another.

In 2013, Sable Island officially became a Canadian National Park, although the area isn’t particularly accessible—it can only be reached by plane or ship. Recently, tour companies have started taking visitors there, and while trips are expensive, visitors will be rewarded by views of unique plant and bird life, pristine beaches, breeding gray seals and the one of the most remote wild horse colonies in North America. 

Wright EX Vin Fiz

National Air and Space Museum
Wood and fabric biplane. Single 35-horsepower Wright vertical four-cylinder engine driving two pusher propellers via sprocket-and-chain transmission. Smaller, experimental version of the standard 1910-12 Wright Model B airplane.

The first crossing of the United States by airplane was achieved by Calbraith Perry Rodgers in 1911. In 1910, famed publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst announced his offer of a $50,000-prize for a U.S. transcontinental flight in thirty days or less. Rodgers' Wright EX biplane was named the Vin Fiz after his sponsor's grape soda product. He left Sheepshead Bay, New York, on September 17, 1911. A "hangar" car, a rolling workshop filled with spare parts to repair and maintain the airplane, followed along. The flight was punctuated by numerous stops, delays, and accidents. When Hearst's 30-day time limit expired, Rodgers had only reached Kansas City, Missouri. Undaunted, he continued on, determined to make the first transcontinental airplane flight whether he received the money or not. He arrived in Pasadena, California, to a hero's welcome, 49 days after setting out. Although Pasadena was the official end of the coast-to-coast journey, Rodgers flew on to Long Beach to complete the flight at the shore of the Pacific Ocean. The total distance covered was 6,914 km (4,321 mi) in 82 hours, 4 minutes, total flying time at an average speed of 82.4 kph (51.5 mph).

The first crossing of the United States by airplane was achieved by Calbraith Perry Rodgers in 1911 in his Wright EX biplane, named the Vin Fiz. Rodgers had a rich personal heritage of exploration and adventure. He was a descendant of Commodore Mathew Calbraith Perry, famous for opening Japan to U.S. trade in 1853, his brother Oliver Hazard Perry, and Commodore John Rodgers, all of whom had historic naval careers. Rodgers's interest in attending the U.S. Naval Academy was thwarted by his deafness, a condition resulting from a serious bout with scarlet fever as a young boy. Given his nautical lineage, he was an avid sailor and was elected to the prestigious New York Yacht Club in 1902. Rodgers had a love of speed, which he pursued through the recently introduced technologies of motorcycles and automobiles.

Rodgers, typically called Cal, was introduced to aviation in June 1911. His cousin, John, a Naval Academy graduate, had been selected to learn to fly the Navy's newly purchased Wright airplane, and was sent to the Wright factory and flying school in Dayton, Ohio, in March 1911. On a visit to his cousin during his training, Cal was immediately hooked on flying, and soon began flight instruction. Shortly thereafter, with his cousin, he ordered a new Wright Model B airplane. A quick study, Rodgers was already flying public exhibitions in Ohio and Indiana with his new aircraft in July. On August 7, 1911, he passed his flight tests for pilot's license number 49, issued by the Aero Club of America. On August 10, he arrived in Chicago to compete in the Chicago International Aviation Meet at Grant Park. He won the duration contest, and along with his performance in other events, earned total prize money of $11,285, and instant celebrity.

Ten months earlier, famed publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst, had captured the attention of the aviation world when he announced a $50,000-prize for the first flight across the United States in thirty days or less. The offer was good for one year beginning on October 10, 1910. The bold challenge interested many of the leading names in aviation, including the Wright brothers and Glenn Curtiss. But the technical and logistical demands of such a flight precluded any immediate attempts.

In September 1911, three competitors were finally in the race. Cal Rodgers was one of them, along with Robert Fowler and James Ward. Fowler took off from San Francisco on September 11, but after three failed attempts to cross the Sierras, aborted his transcontinental flight by the end of the month. Ward took off from the east coast on September 13, but withdrew little more than a week later, not even making it out of New York State.

Following the Grant Park competition in August, Rodgers decided to attempt the coast-to-coast flight. While still in Chicago, he secured financial backing from the Armour Company, a local firm which was then introducing a new grape-flavored soft drink called Vin Fiz. Armour provided a special train, emblazoned with the Vin Fiz logo, with cars for the accommodation of Rodgers's family and his support crew, and a "hangar" car, which was a rolling workshop, filled with spare parts to repair and maintain the airplane over the course of the flight. There was even an automobile on board to pick up Rodgers after forced landings away from the rail line. The pilot would receive five dollars for every mile he flew east of the Mississippi River and four dollars for every mile west of the river. Rodgers agreed to pay for the fuel, oil, spare parts, his mechanics, and the airplane itself, which the Wright Company agreed to build. Chief mechanic on the flight was Charles Taylor, who had worked for the Wright brothers since 1901 and had built the engine for the Wright Flyer, the world's first airplane that flew at Kitty Hawk in 1903.

The airplane was a Wright EX, a special design that was used for exhibition flying, which was a slightly smaller version of the Wright Company's standard Model B flyer. Like the support rail car, Rodgers's aircraft carried the Vin Fiz logo on its wings and tail, and was quickly dubbed the Wright EX Vin Fiz. It was powered by a 35-horsepower, Wright vertical four-cylinder engine, and it carried enough fuel for a maximum of 3½ hours flying time.

Rodgers began his epic journey from Sheepshead Bay, New York, on September 17, 1911. The flight was punctuated by numerous stops, delays, and accidents. When the 30-day time limit Hearst imposed for the $50,000 prize had expired, he had only reached Kansas City, Missouri. Undaunted, Rodgers continued on, determined to make the first transcontinental airplane flight whether he received the money or not. Upon leaving Kansas City, he flew due south to Texas, and then made his way across the southern U.S. border toward Pasadena, California, the official termination point of the flight. Rodgers continued to experience frequent mechanical failures, damage to the airplane in hard landings, and weather delays. Trouble arose again on November 3, shortly after passing over Imperial Junction, California, less than 320 km (200 mi) from the finish. At 1,200 m (4,000 ft), an engine cylinder exploded, damaging one of the wings and driving steel shards into Rodgers's right arm. He struggled to regain control of the Vin Fiz and, amazingly, managed to glide the 10 km (6 mi) back to Imperial Junction and land safely. The engine and airplane were repaired a day later, and despite his painful injury, Rodgers departed for Pasadena once again on November 4. Further engine problems forced him down in Banning, California, about half way to his final destination. On November 5 he was airborne again, and after brief stops in Beaumont and Pomona, he arrived in Pasadena to a hero's welcome, 49 days after setting out from Sheepshead Bay.

Although Pasadena was the official end of the coast-to-coast journey, Rodgers wanted to fly all the way to the Pacific shore to complete the flight. Several coastal towns bid for the honor, and Long Beach was the final selection. They agreed to pay Rodgers $1,000, plus part of the gate receipts of an exhibition of the Vin Fiz after arrival. Rodgers took off from Pasadena for the short 37 km (23 mi) trip to Long Beach on November 12. Minutes into the flight, engine failure forced him down near Covina Junction. Repairs to a broken fuel line had him back in the air that afternoon. But again, just a short time after takeoff, near Compton, California, Rodgers was down. This time it was a serious crash. The airplane was severely damaged and Rodgers was badly hurt. It took several weeks to make the Vin Fiz airworthy again and for Rodgers to recover from his injuries. On December 10, yet needing crutches to move about on his still healing ankle, Rodgers boarded his battered aircraft, determined to fly the Vin Fiz all the way to the Pacific Ocean. As at Pasadena, Rodgers's arrival was an organized public event and a large crowd gathered at Long Beach to welcome him. The remainder of the great adventure met without incident and Rodgers landed to cheering crowds. To create a photo opportunity for the press and the spectators the Vin Fiz was rolled into the surf, allowing the Pacific to lap over it wheels. The 6,914 km (4,321 mi) were covered in 82 hours, 4 minutes, total flying time at an average speed of 82.4 kph (51.5 mph). Cal Rodgers had secured his place in aviation history. (Robert Fowler began another west-to-east transcontinental flight on October 19, this time taking a southern route to avoid the mountains. He arrived in Jacksonville, Florida, on February 8, 1912, completing the trip in more than twice as many days as Rodgers.)

Rodgers and his wife liked Pasadena and decided to stay. He kept the Vin Fiz and a second airplane, a two-seat Wright Model B, at nearby Dominguez Field. He made exhibition flights with the Vin Fiz and took up passengers and gave flight instruction with the Model B. He later moved the airplanes to Long Beach and operated from there. On April 3, 1912, Rodgers was airborne in the Model B, making a test flight after some tuning of the engine in preparation for another passenger ride. Witnesses observed a steep dive as Rodgers apparently attempted to avoid a flock of seagulls. In the next instant he was seen struggling with the controls just before the airplane crashed into the surf, only one hundred yards from his landing spot after the last leg of the transcontinental flight in December. Rodgers was killed instantly. Various causes for the accident were put forth, ranging from a seagull jamming the controls to Rodgers's recklessness or carelessness as a pilot. The precise cause remains undetermined. The wreckage of Rodgers's Model B was acquired by one of his mechanics, Frank Shaffer, and his partner Jesse Brabazon. They rebuilt it and flew for approximately one year until it was destroyed in a crash while being piloted by Brabazon's friend, Andrew Drew, who was killed.

The Vin Fiz was acquired after Cal's death by his cousin, Lt. John Rodgers, USN. He offered it to the Smithsonian Institution, but it was not accepted on the grounds that it was very similar to the recently acquired Wright Military Flyer. It then passed to Rodgers's wife, Mabel, who, not long after Cal's death, married Charles Wiggin. They exhibited and flew the Vin Fiz publicly for two years, until Rodgers's mother was awarded possession of the airplane in 1914 in a court ruling regarding Cal's estate. The history of the airplane becomes somewhat murky at this point. According to Charles Taylor, the Wright mechanic who assisted Rodgers on the transcontinental flight, Rodgers's mother shipped the Vin Fiz to the Wright factory in Dayton, Ohio, for refurbishment. Either unable or unwilling to pay for the work, she allowed the airplane to languish at the Wright factory and it was destroyed in 1916 after the company was sold. But this version of events is at odds with the fact that Rodgers's mother had the Vin Fiz restored and donated it to the Carnegie Institute in Pittsburgh in 1917. The airplane was later acquired by the Smithsonian from Carnegie in 1934.

The probable explanation for the conflicting information lies in the misconception that there was a single Vin Fiz airframe. On the transcontinental flight, several sets of wings and a large supply of other components and spare parts were brought along on the support train. Rodgers's airplane was repaired and rebuilt many times during the trip. By the time the wheels of the Vin Fiz were rolled into the Pacific at Long Beach, almost nothing of the airplane that took off from Sheepshead Bay remained. As a result, at the end of the journey, there were enough flown, genuine Vin Fiz parts to make up more than one airplane. Charles Taylor was probably accurate when he stated that the Vin Fiz sent to the Wright factory (i.e., the intact airplane that Mabel and Charles Wiggin flew in 1912-14) was destroyed. The airplane that ended up at the Carnegie Institute, and then the Smithsonian, was very likely reconstructed from the parts left over from the many repairs and rebuilds during the flight. Thus, the airplane in the NASM collection is genuine in that it is comprised of components that, at various points, were part of the Vin Fiz during the historic coast-to-coast flight.

When on display at the Carnegie Institute, the engine mounted on the Vin Fiz was a wooden mock-up. The whereabouts of the original engine are unknown. At the Smithsonian, an original Wright engine of the correct type, but not associated with the flight nor with Rodgers, was put on the airplane. In 1960, the Smithsonian fully restored the Vin Fiz. In 1996, when it was part of a traveling Smithsonian exhibition, a new wooden mock-up engine was made and placed on the airplane. This was done to reduce potential wear and tear on the artifact caused by repeated removal of the heavy, original engine during assembly and disassembly of the airplane on the many stops of the exhibition tour. The mock-up engine remains on the Vin Fiz.

The Child Prodigies Who Became 20th-Century Celebrities

Smithsonian Magazine

In the first few decades of the 20th century, child prodigies became national celebrities. Much like the movie stars, industrial titans and heavyweight champs of the day, their exploits were glorified and their opinions quoted in newspapers across the United States. 

While every generation produces its share of precocious children, no era, before or since, seems to have been so obsessed with them. The recent advent of intelligence testing, which allowed psychologists to gauge mental ability with seemingly scientific precision, is one likely reason. An early intelligence test had been demonstrated at the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893—the same exhibition that introduced Americans to such wonders as the Ferris wheel, Cracker Jacks and hula dancing. Then, in 1916, Stanford University psychologist Louis Terman published the Stanford-Binet test, which made the term intelligence quotient, or I.Q., part of the popular vocabulary.

A child’s I.Q. was based on comparing his or her mental age, determined by a standardized series of tests, to his or her chronological age. So, for example, a 6-year-old whose test performance matched that of a typical 6-year-old was said to have an average I.Q., of 100, while a 6-year-old who performed like a 9-year-old was awarded a score of 150. Ironically, Alfred Binet, the Frenchman whose name the test immortalized, had not set out to measure the wattage of the brightest children but to help identify the least intelligent, so they might receive an education that better suited them.

Also contributing to the prodigy craze was a change in the nature of news itself. The early 20th century marked the rise of tabloid newspapers, which put greater emphasis on human interest stories. Few subjects were of more human interest than children.

It was the highest I.Q. children and other spectacularly precocious youth who made the best stories, of course. Generally the press covered them with reverence, if not awe. “Infant Prodigies Presage A World Made Richer by A Generation of Marvels,” gushed one New York newspaper in 1922. Others treated them simply as amusing curiosities, suitable for a Ripley’s “Believe It or Not!” cartoon, where, indeed, some of them eventually appeared. Meanwhile, for parents wondering whether they might have one under their own roof, the papers ran helpful stories like “How to Tell If Your Child Is a Genius.”

At roughly the height of the prodigy craze, in 1926, Winifred Sackville Stoner, an author, lecturer, and gifted self-publicist, had the ingenious idea of bringing some of the little geniuses together. The founder of an organization called the League for Fostering Genius and herself the mother of a famous prodigy named Winifred Sackville Stoner, Jr., Stoner wanted to introduce the celebrated children to one another and to connect them with rich patrons who might bankroll their future feats. “Surely there is no better way in which to spend one’s millions,” the New York Times quoted her as saying. 

Though the full guest list may be lost in time, the party’s attendees included William James Sidis, a young man in his twenties who had been a freshman at Harvard at age 11, and Elizabeth Benson, a 12-year-old who was about to enter college. Benson would later remember Nathalia Crane, a precocious poet of 12, as being there as well, although if she was, contemporary news accounts seem to have missed her. So what became of these dazzlingly bright prospects of yesteryear? Here, in brief, are the very different tales of Sidis, Benson and Crane, as well as Stoner, Jr.

William James Sidis, Boy Wonder

Perhaps the most celebrated prodigy of the early 20th century, William James Sidis would grow up to become the poster child for the perils of early fame. 

Born in New York City in 1898, Sidis was the child of Russian immigrant parents, both high achievers themselves. His father was a noted psychologist and protégé of the philosopher-psychologist William James, after whom the boy was named. His mother had earned an M.D. but seems never to have practiced medicine, devoting her time instead to her husband and son.

Spurred on by his parents, in particular his father, who believed that education should begin in the crib, Sidis showed a gift for languages and math at an age when most children are content just to gurgle. According to The Prodigy, a 1986 biography by Amy Wallace, older kids would stop his baby carriage as he was being wheeled through the park to hear him count to 100. At 18 months he was reportedly reading The New York Times, and as a 3-year-old he taught himself Latin.

Sidis made headlines when he started high school at eight and Harvard at 11. His lecture to the Harvard math club on one of his favorite subjects, the fourth dimension , an obscure area of geometry, was widely covered, even if few people seemed to know what he was talking about.

By the time Sidis graduated from college, he’d had his fill of fame and was known to run at the sight of newspaper reporters. He taught briefly, spent some time in law school and flirted with Communism, but his greatest passion seemed to be his collection of streetcar transfers, a subject he wrote a book about using a pseudonym. He would later write other books under other pseudonyms, including a history of Native Americans.

To support himself, Sidis worked at a string of low-level office jobs. When the New Yorker tracked him down for a “Where Are They Now?” article in 1937, it described him as living in a small room in a shabby section of Boston and quoted him as saying that, “The very sight of a mathematical formula makes me physically ill.” Sidis, then 39, sued the magazine for invading his privacy and lost in a landmark case.

Sidis died in 1944 at age 46, apparently of a cerebral hemorrhage. He left behind a pile of manuscripts and at least one big mystery: Was he simply a pathetic recluse who never fulfilled his early promise or a man who succeeded in living life on his own terms, free from the demands of being a prodigy?

Image by Courtesy of the author. The early 20th-century obsession with child prodigies was well documenting in tabloid newspapers, turning the kids into national celebrities. (original image)

Image by Courtesy of the author. Elizabeth Benson became a national celebrity when she was eight, boasting an I.Q. of 214 plus. (original image)

Image by Courtesy of the author. Winifred Sackville Stoner, Jr.'s mother read her baby classic poetry and decked out her nursery with paintings and sculptures. (original image)

Image by Courtesy of the author. Winifred supposedly translated Mother Goose into Esperanto at five, passed the entrance exam for Stanford at nine, and spoke eight languages by 12. (original image)

Image by Courtesy of the author. William James Sidis, known as the Boy Wonder, was perhaps the most celebrated child prodigy of the early 20th century. (original image)

Image by Courtesy of the author. Newspapers reported that child prodigies continued to remain successful well into their teens and adulthood, but most did not follow this trajectory. (original image)

Image by Courtesy of the author. For parents wondering whether they might have a child prodigy under their own roof, newspapers ran helpful stories like “How to Tell If Your Child Is a Genius.” (original image)

Image by Courtesy of the author. While the press generally covered 20th-century child prodigies with reverence, some argued that intense early education aged children too quickly. (original image)

Elizabeth Benson, Test-buster

With an I.Q. of 214 plus, then the highest ever recorded, Elizabeth Benson was a celebrity at the age of eight, though her mother wouldn’t let her read her clippings for fear she’d become conceited. The “plus” meant she had broken the scale, successfully answering every question until her testers ran out of them. There was no telling how high she might have scored.

Benson, born in Waco, Texas in 1913, was raised by her mother, Anne Austin, a journalist who later wrote popular mystery novels with titles like Murder at Bridge and The Avenging Parrot. As her mother’s career progressed, the two moved around, with stops in Iowa, California and Missouri, as well as several Texas cities. By the time young Elizabeth graduated from high school, at age 12, she had attended a dozen different schools.

Though she seems to have excelled at just about everything, Benson’s interests were mainly literary. She taught herself to spell by age 3 and was soon consuming a dozen library books a week. At 13, during her sophomore year at Barnard College in New York City, she published one of her own, The Younger Generation, offering her wry take on the antics of Roaring Twenties youth. In his introduction to the book, Vanity Fair editor Frank Crowninshield marveled not only at the young teenager’s writing skill but also her athletic ability. “A learned physician has hinted to me that the hair-trigger balance between her physical and intellectual natures is probably due to the perfect functioning of her endocrine glands,” he explained, or at least attempted to.

After graduating from college in 1930 Benson dropped from public view. She reemerged four years later, when a reporter found her living in a small apartment in New York, married, and working as a cashier. Time magazine then picked up the story, treating her to further national acclaim, not for being a genius but for turning out so normal.

In the late ’30s, however, Benson’s life appeared to take a radical turn, literally: She returned to her native Texas as Communist organizer. When her group tried to hold a rally at San Antonio’s municipal auditorium, the result was a riot by a reported 5,000 anti-Communist Texans. 

Benson next headed to Los Angeles, where she continued her organizing work in the movie industry. But by the late 1950s, she’d grown disenchanted with Communism, finally breaking with the party in 1968, according to her son, Morgan Spector. She then earned a law degree, taught real property courses and practiced as a labor lawyer. She died in 1994, at age 80, an event that seems to have gone unnoticed by the media that once followed her every move.

Nathalia Crane, Precocious Poet 

Nicknamed the “Baby Browning of Brooklyn,” Nathalia Crane, born in 1913, was a nationally known poet by age 10, acclaimed for such works as “Romance,” later retitled “The Janitor’s Boy,” a girlish fantasy about escaping to a desert isle with the red-haired title character from her apartment house. Crane, her poems, and even the ordinary, real-life boy who inspired her poetic effusions were celebrated in newspapers from coast to coast. 

Nunnally Johnson, later to make his name as a screenwriter and director, observed the spectacle as a young reporter. “Camera men and moving picture photographers shuffled through the apartment-house court to Nathalia’s door,” he wrote. “She was asked imbecile questions: her opinions on love, on bobbed hair, on what she wanted to be when she grew up.” 

It wasn’t long, however, before Crane’s unusual way with words had raised suspicions that she might be a fraud. Conspiracy theorists tried to attribute her poems to everyone from Edna St. Vincent Millay to Crane’s own father, a newspaperman who had demonstrated no particular gift for poetry. Eventually the doubts subsided, and by the end of her teens, Crane’s credits included at least six books of poetry and two novels.

Crane would publish little from the 1930s until her death in 1998. Instead, she went to college and took a series of teaching jobs, ending her career at San Diego State University.

Aside from a brief brush with controversy as a supporter of the Irish Republican Army, Crane rarely stood out in her later years, according to Kathie Pitman, who is working on her biography. “She seems to have been a very quiet, very diffident person, certainly not larger than life,” Pitman says. “It may be that she just tired of all the emphasis that was put on her as a prodigy.”

Though Crane’s work is largely forgotten, it enjoyed a recent revival when Natalie Merchant set “The Janitor’s Boy” to music for her 2010 album, Leave Your Sleep.

Winifred Sackville Stoner, Jr., the Wonder Girl

The curiously named Winfred Sackville Stoner, Jr., born in Norfolk, Virginia, in 1902, was the daughter of Winifred Sackville Stoner, a self-styled education expert who read her baby classic poetry and decorated her nursery with copies of great paintings and sculptures. Her father was a surgeon with the U.S. Public Health Service, whose frequent reassignments kept the family on the move. By the age of 10, his daughter had lived in

Evansville, Indiana, Palo Alto, California, and Pittsburgh—and become a local legend in each of them.

Young Winifred supposedly translated Mother Goose into Esperanto at five, passed the entrance exam for Stanford at nine, and spoke eight languages by 12, when she wasn’t playing the violin, piano, guitar or mandolin. Remember the famous line “In fourteen hundred ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue”? She wrote it. No wonder the newspapers gave her nicknames like the Wonder Girl.

As Winifred, Jr., gained a reputation as a prodigy, her mother became equally well-known as the brains behind one. Mother Stoner, as she was often referred to, published several books explaining how she had reared her amazing daughter and lectured widely on her theories, which she called “natural education.” Like William Sidis’s father, Boris, whom she quoted admiringly, she believed that a child’s education couldn’t begin too early. Indeed, she did Sidis one better and didn’t even wait for her baby to be born to start classes. “Through prenatal influence,” she wrote somewhat cryptically, “I did all in my power to make my little girl love great literature in many languages.”

By the late 1920s, however, the younger Stoner was getting more attention for her chaotic personal life than her artistic achievements. Still a teenager, she had married a phony French count who turned out to be a con man. After he faked his own death, she remarried, only to discover that she now had two husbands. She won an annulment from the “count,” but divorced her second husband anyway, saying he had insulted her coffee. Further husbands and other embarrassments would follow. 

Stoner died in 1983, having long since renounced any claim to being a role model. In a 1930 article she described her youth as being “puffed to the skies and then pitch-forked.” Her closing words: “Take my advice, dear mothers; spare your children from so-called fame, which easily turns to shame, and be happy if you have a healthy, happy, contented boy or girl.”

How Japanese Artists Responded to the Transformation of Their Nation

Smithsonian Magazine

Not long after Japan formally decided to start trading with the West in the 1850s, photography also came to the island nation. Both signaled a new era of modernity.

The quest to understand and depict the soul of Japan as it evolved from Imperialist, agrarian and isolationist, to more populist, global and urban is the theme of two exhibitions now on view at the Smithsonian’s Freer and Sackler Galleries in Washington, D.C. The two shows, “Japan Modern: Photography from the Gloria Katz and Willard Huyck Collection” and “Japan Modern: Prints in the Age of Photography,” share much, says Frank Feltens, curator of the print show.

Neither are in chronological order, but both group images in common themes—with city and country dominating. The photography show is highly documentary; many are in black and white. The prints, made with carved wood blocks, are bold, visual and colorful. But, says Feltens, “between the two shows, you start finding more and more commonalities”—an interest in surfaces, angles, fragments.

The artists are “looking at the world outside, but reimagining it through one time, the lens and then through the wood blocks,” Feltens says.

As it did in the Western world, photography cast a large shadow. Wood block prints had been around for at least a millennium, primarily as a means of communicating something about the culture—telling stories. By the late 19th century, printmaking was dead—a casualty of the easier, cheaper photography.

The first known photograph taken in Japan dates to 1848, says Feltens. Daguerrotypes were popular in Japan—as they were in Europe and America—but photography really took off in the 1920s, with the rise of more portable equipment like Kodak’s vest pocket camera, says Carol Huh, curator of the photography show. The vest pocket, which is about the size of a modern camera, with a lens that pulls out, accordion style, was made between 1912 and 1926, and became extremely popular in Japan, giving rise to camera clubs and the Besu-Tan School photographic style.

The photo show was made possible by the partial gift in May 2018 of a trove of some 400 photographs collected by Gloria Katz and Willard Huyck, Japan aficionados and screenwriters, best known for American Graffiti and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. The collection had largely been displayed on the walls of their Brentwood, California, home. Huh selected for the show 80 prints from two dozen artists, focusing on those that influenced the trajectory of Japanese photography.

Image by Freer|Sackler, Purchase and partial gift from Gloria Katz and Willard Huyck. Simmon: A Private Landscape (#1), by Hosoe Eikoh, 1971 (original image)

Image by Freer|Sackler, Purchase and partial gift from Gloria Katz and Willard Huyck. Seikan Ferryboat, from the series Karasu (Ravens) by Fukase Masahis, 1976 (original image)

Image by Freer|Sackler, Purchase and partial gift from Gloria Katz and Willard Huyck. Yokosuka, Kanagawa, by Tomatsu Shomei, 1959 (original image)

Image by Freer|Sackler, Purchase and partial gift from Gloria Katz and Willard Huyck. Koen Dori, Shibuya, from the series Karasu (Ravens), by Fukase Masahisa, 1982 (original image)

Image by Freer|Sackler, Purchase and partial gift from Gloria Katz and Willard Huyck. Peaks of Takachiho Volcano, Kagoshima and MiyazakiPrefectures, by Hamaya Hiroshi, 1964 (original image)

Image by Freer|Sackler, Purchase and partial gift from Gloria Katz and Willard Huyck. Kamaitachi #8, by Hosoe Eikoh, 1965 (original image)

Image by Freer|Sackler, Purchase and partial gift from Gloria Katz and Willard Huyck. Man in a Traditional Minobashi Raincoat, NiigataPrefecture, by Hamaya Hiroshi, 1956 (original image)

Image by Freer|Sackler, Purchase and partial gift from Gloria Katz and Willard Huyck. My Wife on the Dunes, by Ueda Shoji, ca. 1950 (original image)

Image by Freer|Sackler, Purchase and partial gift from Gloria Katz and Willard Huyck. Boku To Neko (The Cat and Me), by Ueda Shoji, ca. 1950 (original image)

Image by Freer|Sackler, Purchase and partial gift from Gloria Katz and Willard Huyck. Evening View, by Moriyama Daido, 1977 (original image)

The initial gallery—with prints from the 1920s and 1930s—shows how Japanese photographers were so keenly influenced by European contemporaries, especially the soft-focus pictorialists. “We’re hitting a kind of peak of affirming photography as a medium of expression—an art medium, and also a transition towards a more modernist aesthetic,” says Huh. Early photos documented the city and country—a canal; wheat waving in the breeze. The transition is seen in Ishikawa Noboru’s 1930s-era light-and-shadow study, Barn Roof, which hones in on a fragment of a cupola with a misty background.

An Afternoon on the Mountain, a 1931 gelatin silver print by Shiotani Teiko, could be an abstract painting. A lone, tiny skier looks to be fighting his way up the sharply angled gray slope that slashes across the bottom quarter of the photograph, dividing it from the equally gray sky. Teiko largely shot in Tottori Prefecture on Japan’s western coast, creating from its huge dunes and mountains. “The landscape becomes an opportunity for these studies of form,” says Huh.

Teiko also shot whimsical prints of unnaturally bent objects—a precursor to the surrealism that became so evident in his student Ueda Shoji’s work. Shoji’s 1950 My Wife on the Dunes features his kimono-clad spouse, cut off at the knees, staring from the right foreground; to her right, stand three men in business suits, facing in different directions with huge shadows looming behind each. Surreal-like, it also depicts a Japan co-existing with its ancient heritage and its modern imagery.

Many of the photos examine that interplay, especially as Japan looked inward and faced the reality of the devastation of World War II and how the country would rebuild and remake itself.

Japan is the only nation to ever have experienced the wrath of an atomic bomb. The show touches on Nagasaki, where the Americans dropped a bomb on the town of 200,000 at 11:02 a.m. on August 9, 1945. Japan barred photography in the aftermath of both Nagasaki and Hiroshima, but some 16 years later—in 1961—the Japan Council Against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs commissioned Tomatsu Shomei to document the city’s recovery. “It was not unusual at the time for many Japanese not to have seen actually what happened there,” says Huh. That included Shomei. He delved into Nagasaki’s fabric, photographing current life, bomb survivors and objects at what is now the Atomic Bomb Museum.

One of those, shot on a simple background: a wristwatch stopped at 11:02. A bottle that was distorted by the blast takes on a disturbingly human form. “It looks like a carcass,” says Huh. Shomei’s book 11:02 Nagasaki is a personal reckoning and a key document of that horrific event.

He was also obsessed with—and photographed his take on—the Americans’ post-war occupation of Japan, which officially ended in 1952. The effects, however, were lasting. Many of the images show photographers’ curiosity and dismay with these foreigners who had inserted themselves into their nation. The show includes some prints from Yamamura Gasho’s 1959-62 series on Washington Heights, an American military residential area in Tokyo. In one, a group of mischievous-looking black and white children press up against a chain link fence. Gasho is literally “outside the fence looking in at this strange transplant in the middle of Tokyo,” says Huh.

The show ends with the 2009 Diorama Map of Tokyo, a modernist collage by Nishino Sohei, a 36-year-old artist. He walked Tokyo, snapping street views, echoing a similar project from the late 19th century that created the first measured maps of Japan. Sohei cut out tiny prints from contact sheets, laid them down next to each other and then photographed them again for the final print. “The act of putting them together is remembering that journey,” says Huh.

Pre-photography, that type of Tokyo mapping would have been done on a less grand scale through wood block printing. But printers struggled to prove their relevance in the face of photography’s rising popularity. As early as the 1870s, they began shifting how they worked. Shinbashi Railway Station, a bright, multicolored print done in 1873, was an example of the new style, showing off brick buildings and a train idling outside Yokohama station.

The proportions between the figures and buildings were accurate, and it has a photographic sense of perspective, says Feltens. But the gaudy colors were “emphatically unphotographic”—an attempt to compete with the medium that was then limited to black and white.

The effort, however, failed miserably—and printmaking fizzled out. In the 1920s, two new movements attempted to bring prints back to life. In the “new print” school, a publisher thought he could lure Westerners—who were snapping up idealized photographic views that presented a Japan that was perfectly modern and ancient simultaneously—with wood block prints that offered similar sentimental portraits.

Shin-Ohashi, from 1926, attempts this. It’s a night scene with the flicker of a gaslight reflected off the steel trestle of a railroad bridge; meanwhile, a man in a traditional straw hat pulls a rickshaw, while a kimono-clad woman holding a large parasol stands behind him. It was a naked bid to both outdo photography (pictures could not be taken at night) and to satisfy foreigners. “These kinds of prints were not sold to Japanese, even today,” says Feltens. They were also created as pieces of art to be collected—a new direction for prints.

In the 1930s, the “creative” movement began to take off. Japanese print makers had absorbed from Western art the idea that the creator’s genius was to be visible. Thus, printmakers began adding signatures—often in English—and edition numbers to their works. These were no longer the production of an army of carvers who handed their work off to a printing operation.

The printers were still using wood blocks, but in an increasingly sophisticated way. Color was a significant feature. And the perspective was still very photographic.

Ito Shinsui’s 1938 Mt. Fuji from Hakone Observatory is a masterpiece of photographic perspective and feel. The only tell are the range of blues, whites and browns.

Many of the 38 prints in the show are stunning in the depth of their artistry—a point that Feltens was hoping to make. “We wanted to show the breadth of color and shades, and this explosion of creativity happening,” especially from the 1930s onwards, he says. “These people, in terms of creativity, knew no limits,” says Feltens.

Like the photography show, the prints demonstrate that the artists had “an analytical gaze upon Japan,” Feltens says. But unlike the photographers, the print makers did not engage in direct or indirect political commentary or observations about World War II.

But there is a connection to that war, says Feltens. Many print collectors—including Ken Hitch, who loaned the Freer|Sackler a good number of the prints in the show—lived in Japan during the American occupation.

Both printmakers and photographers struggled to be accepted as fine arts in Japan, says Feltens. Ironically, prints, which were almost extinguished by photography, were the first to be recognized as a true art form, he says.

“Japan Modern: Photography from the Gloria Katz and Willard Huyck Collection,” curated by Carol Huh, and “Japan Modern: Prints in the Age of Photography,” curated by Frank Feltens, are both on view at the Smithsonian’s Freer and Sackler Galleries in Washington, D.C. through January 24, 2019.

This Tiny, Uninhabitable Islet in the North Atlantic Has Attracted Fishermen and Adventurers for Decades

Smithsonian Magazine

After a week at sea, fishermen round Drumanoo Head before dropping anchor in Killybegs Harbour, Ireland. Carefully, they unload their catch onto the quay, box after box of mackerel, haddock, monkfish, and squid; spindly tentacles and scaled bodies packed tightly under ice. These trawlermen have come back from the North Atlantic, where conditions are treacherous. High waves and powerful gales range across those waters even in the summer months. Protection only comes with the return to Killybegs, sheltered as it is from the worst of the storms up its narrow bay.

This geographic advantage has helped make Killybegs the largest fishing port in Ireland. Last year, its trawlermen landed almost 200,000 tonnes of fish, helping to feed a burgeoning national export market for seafood. A large part of this catch is found around 420 kilometers north in the Rockall Trough, a remote stretch of the Atlantic between Ireland, Scotland, and Iceland. Here, the fish gather in vast schools, especially near the region’s namesake pinnacle: Rockall, a tiny, uninhabited, jet-black outcrop of granite crowned by a pointillist splattering of guano.

This unassuming speck on the map was thrust into the spotlight this past summer when the Scottish government accused Irish trawlermen of overfishing in its territorial waters, before announcing that its coast guard would board any Irish fishing boat venturing into a 19-kilometer zone around the islet of Rockall. Trawlermen from the town of Killybegs, who have been casting their nets in those waters since the late 1980s, were dumbfounded.

“They find it incredible,” says Sean O’Donoghue, chief executive of the Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation. “The attitude, certainly among my members, [has been], we are not going to take this. They can come and arrest us and we’ll fight this all the way.”

Map data by OpenStreetMap via ArcGIS

For fishermen in Killybegs—where economic activity is concentrated overwhelmingly in the harbor—any exclusion from the water around Rockall could prove economically disastrous. O’Donoghue estimates that up to a third of the town’s herring and blue whiting catch comes from the 19-kilometer area around the outcrop. What’s more, he argues, Scotland has no right to prevent Irish fishermen from plying these waters. British claim of ownership over Rockall has never been legitimate, he says. “We … as an industry, and as an Irish government, have never recognized that.”

As Edinburgh and Dublin clash in distant boardrooms, Irish trawlermen continue to drop nets around Rockall, now under the watchful eye of Scottish enforcement vessels. For the moment, the outcrop’s status remains uncertain. But with Brexit threatening to cut off access to these waters to European Union trawlermen, Killybegs’s fishing community is set to be the first casualty in a maritime legal dispute decades in the making.

***

Rockall is at least 52 million years old, the battered remnant of an extinct volcano. As high as a four-story building and slightly wider than a city bus, the seamount only began appearing on navigational charts in 1606. Early descriptions portray a familiar, if unusual, sight for mariners crossing the Atlantic. “Rokel [sic] is a solitary island … not unlike [Sule] Stack, but higher and bigger, and white from the same cause,” wrote Captain William Coats of the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1745.

That cause—namely, the abundance of guano deposited by resting gannets and guillemots—along with Rockall’s almost vertical cliffs must have put off most sailors from landing, because it wasn’t set foot upon until 1811 when Lieutenant Basil Hall of the HMS Endymion led a small crew in two longboats to its summit. After having mistaken the islet for a ship under sail, an expedition was mounted as, Hall later wrote, “we had nothing better on our hands.”

The trip was a waking nightmare. First came the difficult landing and ascent, complicated by a high swell and Rockall’s slippery cliffs: one false step, Hall wrote, “might have sent the explorer to investigate the secrets of the deep.” By some miracle, the crew clambered up to the summit, only for a dense fog to descend. Frightened about losing their ship, Hall and his men hopped back onto their boats as fast as the rising swell would allow. After several hours rowing through dense mist, they made it back to the Endymion.

The Royal Navy wouldn’t return in force until 1955—this time with a helicopter, four marines, and a plaque declaring Rockall British territory to prevent it from being used as a base for the Soviet Union to spy on the United Kingdom’s missile tests. The annexation briefly fixed the islet at the forefront of British cultural imagination. Many found the episode faintly ridiculous. Satirists Michael Flanders and Donald Swann captured the public’s bemusement in a loving ditty:

We sped across the planet
To find this lump of granite
One rather startled gannet
In fact, we found Rockall.

Lord of the Flies author William Golding used the islet as a convenient, if unlikely, metaphor for the human condition. In his 1956 novel Pincher Martin, Golding’s protagonist is stranded after his ship is torpedoed, only to slowly realize that he is dead and Rockall is his purgatory.

The United Kingdom’s annexation also provoked a spree of visits from a cavalcade of nationalists and adventurers who considered the rock their personal ultima Thule. In 1975, the Dublin rock climber Willie Dick almost drowned attempting to plant the Irish tricolor on the summit, an act that grew out of the simmering outrage among Irish nationalists at Rockall’s incorporation into Inverness-shire, Scotland, three years earlier. A decade later, British Special Air Service (SAS) veteran Tom McClean sought to reaffirm British sovereignty over Rockall by becoming the first man to live on the rock. He spent 40 days huddled in a plywood box.

McClean was followed by activists from Greenpeace in 1997, who rechristened Rockall the Republic of Waveland in protest of oil and gas exploration in its surrounding waters; a group of Belgian ham radio operators in 2011 who became so violently seasick during their trip to the island that they had to return to Scotland the next day; and Englishman Nick Hancock, who holds the world occupation record of 45 days for his stay on the islet.

As the founder of the Rockall Club, membership in which is extended to anyone who has successfully landed on the islet, Hancock is probably the world’s leading expert on its history and morphology. Hancock spent most of his stay sitting and sleeping inside an adapted water tank hauled up on the islet’s flattest ledge. He remembers a windswept, barren place that stank of dead fish. Legacies from past landings, he says, were easy to find.

“There’s a couple of plaques left by the Royal Navy, and one commemorating Tom McClean’s stay,” says Hancock. On the summit lies the remnants of a light beacon installed by British military engineers in 1972 which, from the sea, resembles a subterranean hatch, and a piece of half-carved graffiti on the side of the main ledge left by the SAS veteran. “He got as far as Tom McCl——”

Hancock worried about getting lonely on the rock and vowed to keep himself busy. Sometimes that meant making friends with passing birds, including two pigeons and a starling. For the most part, though, Hancock spent his time reading, learning the harmonica, and conducting a series of scientific experiments, including the successful confirmation of Rockall’s height (0.85 meters lower than previously thought). Aside from the fierce storm that cut his expedition to just three days over the existing record, the memories that stick most in his mind are of sitting under crystal blue skies, “watching gannets diving and minke whales surfacing around the rock. And you were the only person there.”

***

For fishermen like O’Donoghue, however, Rockall is less important for its natural beauty than its capacity to block access to vital fishing grounds. Their concerns are shared by the Irish government, which has never recognized the United Kingdom’s claim to Rockall.

On the face of it, Dublin’s position is in opposition to international maritime law, as defined by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). This agreement, signed by the vast majority of the world’s governments, lays out the rules for deciding a country’s maritime territory, stating that rocks that “cannot sustain human habitation or economic life of their own shall have no economic exclusive zone or continental shelf.” However, it does permit the creation of territorial waters around said outcrop if a country stakes a valid claim to it.

The Irish government, however, refuses to recognize the United Kingdom’s title over Rockall. This means, in turn, that the waters around Rockall are not British territory at all, but just the far reaches of the United Kingdom’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ). Since both nations are currently members of the European Union, Irish trawlermen are entitled to fish in the United Kingdom’s EEZ under the European Union’s Common Fisheries Policy. In Dublin’s eyes, therefore, Rockall should have as much bearing on fishing rights as an iceberg or a shipwreck.

The United Kingdom, of course, believes otherwise. It considers Rockall and the water around it to be British territory, and therefore exempt from the Common Fisheries Policy. It has continuously reinforced this claim through symbolic acts, including fixing various plaques by the Royal Navy on the outcrop proclaiming British sovereignty over it and legally incorporating the islet into Inverness-shire in 1972.

Vintage engraving from 1862 showing Rockall, a small, uninhabited, remote rocky islet in the North Atlantic Ocean. (duncan1890/Getty Images)

Though this may not seem like much, a “symbolic act on a tiny, uninhabitable speck of land is very significant in terms of getting international ownership,” explains Clive Symmons, a professor of maritime law at Trinity College Dublin. What is actually more unusual, Symmons says, is that though the United Kingdom maintains Rockall is its territory, it has given up using the islet to further its EEZ into the North Atlantic. Typically, a country’s EEZ is calculated to extend 200 nautical miles (370 kilometers) from its claimed territory. In 1997, however, the United Kingdom unilaterally decided to pull back the starting point for this calculation from Rockall to St. Kilda, an archipelago around 180 kilometers off the Scottish mainland.

Ironically, it is the last remnant of Britain’s hold over Rockall that is proving to be the most troublesome. And with Brexit looming, this situation could deteriorate even further.

The latest version of the Political Declaration on withdrawal seeks to preserve the status quo of fishing rights until a new agreement on access is reached between London and Brussels by July 2020, a deal the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation has endorsed provided no further concessions are made in permitting its European Union rivals to fish in British waters. However, because the federation’s members consider Rockall’s waters United Kingdom territory, and therefore never subject to the Common Fisheries Policy, access to the outcrop is likely to become an object of intense negotiation.

The situation will become much simpler if Britain leaves the European Union without a deal. Since Rockall lies at the westernmost edge of the United Kingdom’s EEZ, the British government would be within its rights to throw all Irish (and all European Union) fishermen out of these waters. The inverse is also true for British fishermen in European Union waters, says O’Donoghue. “They’re not going to accept that we can put them out.”

The Killybegs association chief executive suspects the Scottish government’s newfound belligerence is an attempt to whip up support for its own nationalist party against the Conservative Party in the country’s fishing communities, a claim disputed by officials in Edinburgh. As the United Kingdom’s withdrawal date nears, few can predict whether Brexit will lead to new opportunities for British trawlermen no longer bound by the Common Fisheries Policy or clashes with their European counterparts over who can fish where, as occurred last summer when French boats rammed their British counterparts in a row over scallop stocks in the Baie de la Seine.

Other observers, however, are keen to see how the British claim to the islet might evolve under these pressures.

“The Japanese are particularly interested in Rockall,” Symmons says. Japan, too, claims ownership of an isolated rocky outcrop hundreds of kilometers from shore. While the largest islet in the Okinotorishima reef is no larger than a double bed, the Japanese government has spent an estimated US $600-million literally shoring up its island status with concrete barriers and titanium netting. Unlike the United Kingdom, though, Japan continues to claim a 200-nautical-mile EEZ around the formation, “much to the displeasure of the Chinese, [who] of course cite the UNCLOS convention,” says Symmons.

Any future horse-trading over the territoriality of a granite outcrop in the North Atlantic could, therefore, set a valuable precedent in the ongoing tussle over an artificially sheltered atoll in the western Pacific.

The capacity for Rockall to create such mischief would have been unimaginable to its first visitors in 1811. To Hall and his crew, it was nothing but a curiosity that broke the endless monotony of the North Atlantic. “The smallest point of a pencil could scarcely give it a place on any map, which should not exaggerate its proportion to the rest of the islands in that stormy ocean,” he wrote. A moot point now, perhaps.

Related stories from Hakai Magazine:

Teaching Resources From the Smithsonian

Smithsonian Magazine

These resources, compiled by the education teams across the Smithsonian Institution feature lessons, activities, exhibitions, videos and tools that can be used to teach students about the broad climatic, biodiversity, and other forces underway that will shape Earth’s future.

Climate Change

Second Opinion: Forging the Future – Smithsonian Resources
This is a Smithsonian Learning Lab topical collection, which contains interdisciplinary education resources, including student interactives, videos, images and blogs to complement the Smithsonian's national conversation on "Forging the Future" and our ever-changing planet, highlighted on Second Opinion. Use this sample of the Smithsonian's many resources to introduce or augment your study of this topic and spark a conversation.
Provider: Smithsonian Center for Learning and Digital Access
Grade(s): K-12

High Tide Case Study
Why would the Guna people of Panama leave the place where they've lived for over 150 years? Use these sources to determine if the environment and our relationships with it can be factors that force people from their homes.
Provider: National Museum of the American Indian
Grade(s): 7-8, 9-12

Idealabs: Prehistoric Climate Change (and Why It Matters Today)
Online interactive in which students compare leaf fossils to learn about the climate millions of years ago. They also meet a Smithsonian paleontologist in a video.
Provider: Smithsonian Center for Learning and Digital Access
Grade(s): 4-8, 9-12

Traveling Lightly: What's My Footprint?
Teacher-created lesson in which students use measurement and basic math as they learn about the role of transportation in climate change. They consider ways of minimizing their impact on the environment.
Provider: Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
Grade(s): 4-8, 9-12

Environmental Dilemma Part I
Teacher-created lesson in which students devise a plan or create an invention to combat global warming.
Provider: Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
Grade(s): 4-8

Arctic: A Friend Acting Strangely Classroom Activities
This companion to the exhibition Arctic: A Friend Acting Strangely includes seven activities for classroom use. Students look at changes in the Arctic’s climate, which have been observed by both polar scientists and polar residents – changes that impact the Arctic’s wildlife and its peoples.
Provider: National Museum of Natural History
Grade(s): 4-8

Weather Lab
Weather Lab is a tool to help visualize how North America’s weather is formed. This lab is designed to model the complex interactions between air masses and ocean currents, but like all models it represents probable outcomes. Each prediction you make is for possible outcomes during Spring.
Provider: Smithsonian Science Education Center
Grades: 5-8

Disaster Detector
Disaster Detector teaches players how to analyze and interpret data on natural hazards to forecast future catastrophic events and how to implement tools to mitigate the effects of those disasters.
Provider: Smithsonian Science Education Center
Grade(s): 6-8

Create an Ecotourism Plan
Students will identify a threatened area and conduct research to learn what it used to be like, what it's like now and why it changed. They will come up with an ecotourism plan that will encourage people to visit the area and show respect for the land.
Provider: Smithsonian TweenTribune.com
Grade(s): 3-10

Hold a Class Debate
Students will share what they know about Dubai and discuss reasons why that city wants to use flying taxis. They they will consider the merits of flying taxis and debate to decide whether or not flying taxis should be allowed in their own community.
Provider: Smithsonian TweenTribune.com
Grade(s): 3-10

Life on Earth

Showbiz Safari
Showbiz Safari is an educational life science game that will help teach your student about the diversity of plants and animals in different habitats.
Provider: Smithsonian Science Education Center
Grade(s): 1-3

Morphy
Morphy is a life science game that teaches students that animals have external structures that function to support survival and behavior.
Provider: Smithsonian Science Education Center
Grade(s): 1-3

Expedition: Insects
Expedition: Insects is an eBook designed and written by the Smithsonian Science Education Center and aligned with national science standards for grades 3-5. In the eBook, readers travel around the world to visit six different types of insects in their natural habitats. The young explorers learn about how evolution is responsible for all the beauty, fearsomeness and awe found in nature’s insects.
Provider: Smithsonian Science Education Center
Grade(s): 3-5

Energy

Good Thinking! and Fired Up About Energy
“Good Thinking! The Science of Teaching Science” is an original animated series by the Smithsonian Science Education Center and FableVision Studios that brings viewers into the classroom of science educator Isabella Reyes as she explores “the science of teaching science”. Drawing from peer-reviewed research in science, cognition, and pedagogy, “Good Thinking! Fired Up About Energy” explores common student misconceptions from research related to the study of energy and suggests methods for effectively representing and discussing the topic in the classroom.
Provider: Smithsonian Science Education Center
Grade(s): 5-8

Exploring Solar Energy: The Science Behind Design
Lesson about energy-related problems and design solutions in which students investigate the sources and properties of energy, conduct Internet research and create a workshop for their classmates.
Provider: Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
Grade(s): 9-12

A Tall Ship and a Star to Steer Her By
This lesson explores transportation past and present, and addresses the use of inexhaustible power sources. Students design their own water transportation using inexhaustible power sources such as solar or wind power.
Provider: Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
Grade(s): 9-12

Design Competition: Energy Systems of the Future!
Teacher-created lesson in which students develop concepts for using renewable resources.
Provider: Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
Grade(s): 4-8, 9-12

Designing "Green" to Save Our Green Planet
Teacher-created lesson in which students design environment-friendly homes. Their client: the planet Earth.
Provider: Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
Grade(s): 4-8, 9-12

Energy, Power to the People
Teacher-created lesson in which students research local energy issues and design a policy to address them.
Provider: Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
Grade(s): 4-8, 9-12

Energy, Sun Today, Sun Tomorrow; Sun Yesterday?
Teacher-created design lesson in which students consider the uses of solar energy. They learn how to track and measure the sun's radiance and study ways that past civilizations have harnessed the sun's energy.
Provider: Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
Grade(s): 4-8, 9-12

The Energy-Efficient Chemical House
Teacher-created lesson in which students design a house with efficient heating and cooling. They use their knowledge of conduction, convection and radiation in the design. 
Provider: Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
Grade(s): 4-8

Migration

Smithsonian in Your Classroom: Tale of a Whale (and Why It Can Be Told)
Multistep lesson in which students do the work of scientists who study the endangered North Atlantic right whale. They compare photos to identify an individual whale and use a record of sighting to track this whale’s movements along the eastern seaboard.
Provider: Smithsonian Center for Learning and Digital Access
Grade(s):4-8, 9-12

Preservation

American Indian Responses to Environmental Challenges
Multimedia website and lessons on the cultural, economic and scientific motivations behind environmental preservation in four American Indian communities.
Provider: National Museum of the American Indian
Grade(s): 4-8, 9-12

Explore Smithsonian Video Series
This video series takes an exclusive look at the science and research of the Smithsonian Institution. Each video in this series is designed for use in the classroom by highlighting a driving question and following Smithsonian scientists as they go about the process of science. Viewers are taken from the waters of the Chesapeake Bay at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, to the Chandra Telescope Mission Control Center at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Viewers even get to visit the Smithsonian Institution’s National Zoological Park to learn about the types of adaptations pandas, like Bao Bao, have for their distinctive bamboo diet. Each video is an adventure of science and learning, and we use the world’s largest museum and research complex as our own personal classroom.
Provider: Smithsonian Science Education Center
Grade(s): 3 - 8

Food and Habitats

Habitats
Do you know where the red-eyed tree frog calls home? Play this game based on animal habitats to learn! Explore the desert, coral reef, jungle, and marsh to discover where many animals live by matching each animal to their correct habitat!
Provider: Smithsonian Science Education Center
Grade(s): 3 - 5

Composting Conundrum
In this lesson plan, students use a graphic organizer to determine what might be involved in composting food scraps from the cafeteria. They learn new vocabulary, work in groups on a design solution and build a prototype of a food collector. 
Provider: Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
Grade(s): 4-8

Soil, Design a CSA/Food Market
Teacher-created lesson in which students design a system of community-supported agriculture (CSA). Includes such math applications as measurement and geometry. 
Provider: Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
Grade(s): 4-8, 9-12

Soil, Food Mapping
Teacher-created lesson in which students analyze the "food system" in their community. They look for solutions to any ecological or social problems inherent in the system.
Provider: Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
Grade(s): 4-8

Shorelines: Life and Science at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center
Blog follows the ongoing work of the Smithsonian's Environmental Research Center as they investigate climate change, invasive species, food webs, and other environmental issues around the world.
Provider: Smithsonian Environmental Research Center
Grade(s): General Audience

STEMVisions Blog: Chronicling Climate Change
This blog shares science stories focused on climate change, invasive species, food webs, and other environmental issues around the world. For example, read about the bristlecone trees, which act as chroniclers of climate history.
Provider: Smithsonian Science Education Center
Grade(s): General Audience

Design a Food Forest
Students design a plan for a food forest in their community. The plan includes details about location, content, maintenance, customer base and funding. 
Provider: Smithsonian TweenTribune.com
Grade(s): 3-10

Spanish Resources

Nuestra casa en el universe
Spanish-language introduction to environmentalism and “our home in the universe” in comic-book form.
Provider: Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute
Grade(s): PreK-3, 4-8

An Astronaut Reflects on Sally Ride's Legacy for Women in STEM

Smithsonian Magazine

On June 18, 1983, 35 years ago, Sally Ride became the first American woman to launch into space, riding the Space Shuttle STS-7 flight with four other crew members. Only five years earlier, in 1978, she had been selected to the first class of 35 astronauts – including six women – who would fly on the Space Shuttle.

Sally’s first ride, with her STS-7 crewmates. In addition to launching America’s first female astronaut, it was also the first mission with a five-member crew. Front row, left to right: Ride, commander Bob Crippen, pilot Frederick Hauck. Back row, left to right: John Fabian, Norm Thagard. (NASA)

Much has happened in the intervening years. During the span of three decades, the shuttles flew 135 times carrying hundreds of American and international astronauts into space before they were retired in 2011. The International Space Station began to fly in 1998 and has been continuously occupied since 2001, orbiting the Earth once every 90 minutes. More than 50 women have now flown into space, most of them Americans. One of these women, Peggy Whitson, became chief of the Astronaut Office and holds the American record for number of hours in space.

The Space Shuttle was an amazing flight vehicle: It launched like a rocket into Low Earth Orbit in only eight minutes, and landed softly like a glider after its mission. What is not well known is that the Space Shuttle was an equalizer and enabler, opening up space exploration to a wider population of people from planet Earth.

STS-50 Crew photo with commander Richard N. Richards and pilot Kenneth D. Bowersox, mission specialists Bonnie J. Dunbar, Ellen S. Baker and Carl J. Meade, and payload specialists Lawrence J. DeLucas and Eugene H. Trinh. The photo was taken in front of the Columbia Shuttle, which Dunbar helped to build. (NASA)

This inclusive approach began in 1972 when Congress and the president approved the Space Shuttle budget and contract. Spacesuits, seats and all crew equipment were initially designed for a larger range of sizes to fit all body types, and the waste management system was modified for females. Unlike earlier vehicles, the Space Shuttle could carry up to eight astronauts at a time. It had a design more similar to an airplane than a small capsule, with two decks, sleeping berths, large laboratories and a galley. It also provided privacy.

I graduated with an engineering degree from the University of Washington in 1971 and, by 1976, I was a young engineer working on the first Space Shuttle, Columbia, with Rockwell International at Edwards Air Force Base, in California. I helped to design and produce the thermal protection system – those heat resistant ceramic tiles – which allowed the shuttle to re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere for up to 100 flights.

Mike Anderson and Bonnie Dunbar flew together on STS-89 in 1998. They both graduated from University of Washington. Anderson was killed in the Columbia accident, in 2003. (NASA)

It was a heady time; a new space vehicle could carry large crews and “cargo,” including space laboratories and the Hubble Space Telescope. The Shuttle also had a robotic arm, which was critical for the assembly of the International Space Station, and an “airlock” for space walks, and enabled us to build the International Space Station.

I knew from my first day at Rockwell that this vehicle had been designed for both men and women. A NASA engineer at the Langley Research Center gave me a very early “heads up” in 1973 that they would eventually select women astronauts for the Space Shuttle. In the 1970s there were visionary men and women in NASA, government and in the general public, who saw a future for more women in science and engineering, and for flying into space. Women were not beating down the door to be included in the Space Shuttle program, we were being invited to be an integral part of a larger grand design for exploring space.

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The selection process for the first class of Space Shuttle astronauts, to include women, opened in 1977. NASA approached the recruitment process with a large and innovative publicity campaign encouraging men and women of all ethnic backgrounds to apply.

One of NASA’s recruiters was actress Nichelle Nichols who played Lt. Ohura on the Star Trek series, which was popular at the time. Sally learned about NASA’s astronaut recruitment drive through an announcement, possibly on a job bulletin board, somewhere at Stanford University. Sally had been a talented nationally ranked tennis player, but her passion was physics. The opportunity to fly into space intrigued her and looked like a challenge and rewarding career she could embrace.

Sally and I arrived at NASA at the same time in 1978 – she as part of the “TFNG” (“Thirty-Five New Guys”) astronaut class and I as a newly minted mission controller, training to support the Space Shuttle. I had already been in the aerospace industry for several years and had made my choice for “space” at the age of 9 on a cattle ranch in Washington state. I also applied for the 1978 astronaut class, but was not selected until 1980.

Sally and I connected on the Flight Crew Operations co-ed softball team. We both played softball from an early age and were both private pilots, flying our small planes together around southeast Texas. We also often discussed our perspectives on career selection, and how fortunate we were to have teachers and parents and other mentors who encouraged us to study math and science in school – the enabling subjects for becoming an astronaut.

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In January 1978, NASA selected six women into the class of 35 new astronauts to fly on the Space Shuttle. From left to right are Shannon W. Lucid, Ph.D., Margaret Rhea Seddon, M.D., Kathryn D. Sullivan, Ph.D., Judith A. Resnik, Ph.D., Anna L. Fisher, M.D., and Sally K. Ride, Ph.D. (NASA)

Although Sally was one of six women in the 1978 class, she preferred to be considered one of 35 new astronauts – and to be judged by merit, not gender. It was important to all the women that the bar be as high as it was for the men. From an operational and safety point of view, that was also equally important. In an emergency, there are no special allowances for gender or ethnicity: Everyone had to pull their own weight. In fact, it has been said that those first six women were not just qualified, they were more than qualified.

While Sally was honored to be picked as the first woman from her class to fly, she shied away from the limelight. She believed that she flew for all Americans, regardless of gender, but she also understood the expectations on her for being selected “first.” As she flew on STS-7, she paid tribute to those who made it possible for her to be there: to her family and teachers, to those who made and operated the Space Shuttle, to her crewmates, and to all of her astronaut classmates including Kathy Sullivan, Rhea Seddon, Anna Fisher, Shannon Lucid, and Judy Resnick (who lost her life on Challenger).

With all of the attention, Sally was a gracious “first.” And the launch of STS-7 had a unique celebratory flair. Signs around Kennedy Space Center said “Fly Sally Fly,” and John Denver gave a special concert the night before the launch, not far from the launch pad.

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One of the topics that Sally and I discussed frequently was why so few young girls were entering into math, technology, science and engineering – which became known as STEM careers in the late 1990s. Both of us had been encouraged and pushed by male and female mentors and “cheerleaders.” By 1972, companies with federal contracts were actively recruiting women engineers. NASA had opened up spaceflight to women in 1978, and was proud of the fact that they were recruiting and training women as astronauts and employing them in engineering and the sciences.

National needs for STEM talent and supportive employment laws were creating an environment such that if a young woman wished to become an aerospace engineer, a physicist, a chemist, a medical doctor, an astronomer or an astrophysicist, they could.

One might have thought that Sally’s legendary flight, and those of other women astronauts over the last 35 years might have inspired a wave of young women (and men) into STEM careers. For example, when Sally flew into space in 1983, a 12-year-old middle school girl back then would now be 47. If she had a daughter, that daughter might be 25. After two generations, we might have expected that there would be large bow wave of young energized women entering into the STEM careers. But this hasn’t happened.

Rather, we have a growing national shortage of engineers and research scientists in this nation, which threatens our prosperity and national security. The numbers of women graduating in engineering grew from 1 percent in 1971 to about 20 percent in 35 years. But women make up 50 percent of the population, so there is room for growth. So what are the “root causes” for this lack of growth?

**********

Many reports have cited deficient K-12 math and science education as contributing to the relatively stagnant graduation rates in STEM careers.

Completing four years of math in high school, as well as physics, chemistry and biology is correlated with later success in science, mathematics and engineering in college. Without this preparation, career options are reduced significantly. Even though I graduated from a small school in rural Washington state, I was able to study algebra, geometry, trigonometry, math analysis, biology, chemistry and physics by the time I graduated. Those were all prerequisites for entry into the University of Washington College of Engineering. Sally had the same preparation before she entered into physics.

As part of NASA’s commitment to the next generation of explorers, NASA Ames collaborated with Sally Ride Science to sponsor and host the Sally Ride Science Festival at the NASA Research Park. Hundreds of San Francisco Bay Area girls, their teachers and parents enjoy a fun-filled interactive exploration of science, technology, engineering and mathematics on Sept. 27, 2008. (NASA Ames Research Center / Dominic Hart)

Although we have many great K-12 schools in the nation, too many schools now struggle to find qualified mathematics and physics teachers. Inspiring an interest in these topics is also key to retention and success. Being excited about a particular subject matter can keep a student engaged even through the tough times. Participation in “informal science education” at museums and camps is becoming instrumental for recruiting students into STEM careers, especially as teachers struggle to find the time in a cramped curriculum to teach math and science.

Research has shown that middle school is a critical period for young boys and girls to establish their attitudes toward math and science, to acquire fundamental skills that form the basis for progression into algebra, geometry and trigonometry, and to develop positive attitudes toward the pursuit of STEM careers. When Dr. Sally Ride retired from NASA, she understood this, and founded Imaginary Lines and, later, Sally Ride Science, to influence career aspirations for middle school girls. She hosted science camps throughout the nation, exposing young women and their parents to a variety of STEM career options. Sally Ride Science continues its outreach through the University of California at San Diego.

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Sally Ride and Bonnie Dunbar are fighting outdated stereotypes that women are not good at STEM subjects. (Creativa Images/shutterstock.com)

However, there are still challenges, especially in this social media-steeped society. I and other practicing women engineers have observed that young girls are often influenced by what they perceive “society thinks” of them.

In a recent discussion with an all-girl robotics team competing at NASA, I asked the high school girls if they had support from teachers and parents, and they all said “yes.” But then, they asked, “Why doesn’t society support us?” I was puzzled and asked them what they meant. They then directed me to the internet where searches on engineering careers returned a story after story of describing “hostile work environments.”

Sadly, most of these stories are very old and are often from studies with very small populations. The positive news, from companies, government, universities and such organizations as the National Academy of Engineers, Physics Girl and Society of Women Engineers, rarely rises to the top of the search results. Currently, companies and laboratories in the U.S. are desperate to employ STEM qualified and inspired women. But many of our young women continue to “opt out.”

Young women are influenced by the media images they see every day. We continue to see decades-old negative stereotypes and poor images of engineers and scientists on television programs and in the movies.

Popular TV celebrities continue to boast on air that they either didn’t like math or struggled with it. Sally Ride Science helps to combat misconceptions and dispel myths by bringing practicing scientists and engineers directly to the students. However, in order to make a more substantial difference, this program and others like it require help from the media organizations. The nation depends upon the technology and science produced by our scientists and engineers, but social media, TV hosts, writers and movie script developers rarely reflect this reality. So it may be, that in addition to K-12 challenges in our educational system, the “outdated stererotypes” portrayed in the media are also discouraging our young women from entering science and engineering careers.

The Top 9 Baffling, Humbling, Mind-Blowing Science Stories of 2016

Smithsonian Magazine

2016 was a momentous year for science. Check out how Smithsonian covered a few of this year's biggest science news stories.

1. Cut the carb(on)

The Arctic is undergoing another unusually warm winter, but it's only part of the story of global climate change. (Sebastian / Alamy)

It's been one year since nearly 200 countries agreed to control greenhouse gas emissions at a United Nations conference in Paris last year. The agreement couldn't come soon enough—this summer, scientists reported that carbon dioxide levels in Earth's atmosphere will now remain above 400 parts per million year round, a threshold that scientists have called "the point of no return." Carbon levels in the atmosphere are now threatening to skew carbon dating in the near future, though one scientist seems to have found a workaround. And when it comes to carbon dioxide levels, all hope is not lost: Some researchers are getting creative with their innovations, including researchers who figured out how to successfully capture carbon dioxide and turn it into stone.

2. Bleached coral

An obituary for the Great Barrier Reef may be premature, but conservationists aren't breathing a sigh of relief yet. (Travelscape Images / Alamy)

Earth's rising temperatures have spelled trouble for coral reefs worldwide. Hotter waters disturb the coral organisms' food and pigment source, turning them a ghostly white and increasing their likelihood of dying. This year, Australia's Great Barrier Reef and Florida's elaborate reef system suffered massive bleaching events, and things are only set to get worse as temperatures keep rising. Though some have declared it too soon to sound the death knell on these prodigious ecosystems, we're not out of the woods yet: More frequent bleaching events keep coral from healing and preparing for future bleaching, putting them at risk of dying permanently.

3. Shipwrecks galore

This Byzantine wreck is one of over 40 ancient ships discovered in the Black Sea. (EEF / Black Sea MAP)

Besides dying coral, scientists also found a lot of shipwrecks underwater this year. From a "perfectly preserved" 19th-century cargo ship in Lake Superior to 40 ships at the bottom of the Black Sea that date back as far as the Byzantine era to 23 Greek shipwrecks as old as 525 B.C.E., it was a good year for finding nautical misfortune. The recent spate of shipwreck discoveries not only provides valuable archaeological finds, but has also allowed scientists to discover a possibly new termite species and piece together a history of hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean before meterological records. Plus, now we know what 340-year-old cheese smells like.

4. Gravity's song

LIGO's founding fathers, from left: Rainer Weiss, Kip Thorne and Barry Barish. Not pictured: Ronald Drever (Brinson + Banks)

Just over a century after Albert Einstein first proposed their existence, scientists this year announced that they had detected gravitational waves. Using ultra-sensitive equipment spread across the United States, physicists were able to pick up the energy released by two black holes colliding more than a billion years ago. A few months later, the team of scientists announced the detection of more gravitational waves from another pair of colliding black holes.

With these new tools, scientists hope to be able observe parts of the universe that cannot be seen with light, and perhaps even study the creation of the universe itself. "They have given mankind a completely new way of looking at the universe," Stephen Hawking told the team when they were awarded a Smithsonian magazine American Ingenuity Award earlier this month.

5. Space is the place

Artist's rendering of Juno making a close pass of Jupiter. (NASA)

But gravitational waves weren't only things in space making waves this year. Two years after reaching the comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, the European Space Agency's Rosetta probe met its violent end in a planned crash landing on the comet's surface. Don't be too sad, however. “Rosetta will live on because we’re going to get loads of great science out of the data that’s been taken,” mission scientist Matt Taylor told Gizmodo. “I think we’ve done all that we can with the spacecraft, and I haven’t got any regrets.”

In the U.S., the country mourned astronaut, politician, and all-around nice guy John Glenn. "He was a great American hero, there’s no doubt about it," Smithsonian curator Michael Neufeld told Smithsonian on the day Glenn died. That same day, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos received a Smithsonian magazine American Ingenuity Award for his pioneering work on reusable rocket technology. Bezos named his new generation of rockets "New Glenn," and he received a letter congratulating him from the original Glenn.

Meanwhile, fellow private space entrepreneur Elon Musk announced his plans to start regularly landing spacecraft on Mars beginning in 2018. Despite some setbacks, Musk's SpaceX continues to push ahead.

And don't forget about NASA. The granddaddy space agency successfully put its Juno spacecraft into orbit around Jupiter. Except to see some cool things from our solar system's biggest planet in the near future.

6. Things got CRISPR

Precision gene-editing has changed the game for altering our genetic code, but controversy remains. (moodboard / Alamy)

With the help of new CRISPR technique for gene editing, Chinese scientists modified immune cells to attack cancer, marking the first time this method was used for treating a patient. U.S. scientists have meanwhile received permission to start testing gene editing of embryos to create "three-parent babies" that have potentially problematic genes replaced. Controversy remains, however, particularly when it comes to gene editing and food.

7. Man's best and longest friend

Dogs are not just our best friends, but possibly our oldest. (Tierfotoagentur / Alamy )

Dogs have been our trusted companions for far longer than previously thought, scientists discovered this year. It has been long thought that humans started domesticating dogs between 11,000 and 16,000 years ago, but genetic analysis of a 35,000-year-old wolf bone has shown that the process may have begun as long as 40,000 years ago. "One scenario is that wolves started following humans around and domesticated themselves," researcher Love Dalén told BBC News. "Another is that early humans simply caught wolf cubs and kept them as pets and this gradually led to these wild wolves being domesticated."

8. How Lucy fell from the sky (no diamonds, though)

For over four decades, Lucy has held the secret of her demise close to her chest—until now. (Juan Aunion / Alamy )

Lucy, the 3.2-million-year-old Australopithecus afarensis skeleton discovered in Ethiopia in 1974, is one of our most famous ancestors. The 3-foot-tall hominid represents a bridge between apes and humans—it's believed she lived primarily in the trees, but she was also able to walk upright on two legs. While her fossilized remains have been studied extensively for more than four decades, it was only this year that scientists were able to piece together how she died. Based on how her bones were damaged, Lucy appears to have taken a fatal plunge of more than 40 feet from her arboreal home to the earth below. Whether it was an accident or murder is hard to know, but researchers have managed to reconstruct her final moments as she reached out her arms to futilely save herself.

“We've all fallen, and we know at that instant in time what she was trying to do,” says anthropologist John Kappelman, who helped solve the mystery of the hominid's death. “We can actually fully identify with her at that moment, and I just felt a wave of empathy that I've never felt before with any of the other fossils that I've ever studied. My mind just jumped to seeing this little broken form, bleeding out, lying at the foot of a tree.”

9. Zika Zika Zika

Genetically-modified mosquitoes are among the new technologies for fighting Zika. (Dylan Becksholt / Alamy )

Easily taking the cake for the health scare of 2016 was the mosquito-borne Zika virus. The virus, which usually has mild symptoms, generated little notice when it started spreading through Brazil last year—until doctors started noticing a rash of birth defects, namely a condition called microcephaly in which children are born with undersized heads. Panic set in, and it didn't help that Brazil was set to host the Summer Olympics this year. From mosquito-resistant uniforms to condoms dipped in antiviral gel, teams got creative in their efforts to reassure their athletes.

As the Zika virus reached the U.S. later this year, officials in Florida began planning to fight its spread with genetically modified mosquitoes that will hopefully spread a fatal gene through the natural population. Meanwhile, ecologists took the opportunity to point out how deforestation is one of the main forces pushing new pandemics to spread from animals to humans. "This is a wake-up call," Ecohealth Alliance president Peter Daszak said.

The Top Ten Most Influential Travel Books

Smithsonian Magazine

William H.H. Murray's guidebook to the Adirondacks “kindled a thousand camp fires and taught a thousand pens how to write of nature,” inspiring droves of American city-dwellers to venture into the wild and starting a back-to-nature movement that endures to this day. Of course, Murray's slender volume was part of a great literary tradition. For more than two millennia, travel books have had enormous influence on the way we have approached the world, transforming once-obscure areas into wildly popular destinations.

A detailed selection would fill a library. So what follows is a brazenly opinionated short-list of travel classics—some notorious, some barely remembered—that have inspired armchair travelers to venture out of their comfort zone and hit the road. 

1. Herodotus, Histories (c.440 BC)

Homer's Odyssey is often referred to as the first travel narrative, creating the archetypal story of a lone wanderer, Odysseus, on a voyage filled with mythic perils, from terrifying monsters like the Cyclops to seductive nymphs and ravishing sorceresses. As may be.  But the first real “travel writer,” as we would understand the term today, was the ancient Greek author Herodotus, who journeyed all over the eastern Mediterranean to research his monumental Histories. His vivid account of ancient Egypt, in particular, created an enduring image of that exotic land, as he “does the sights” from the pyramids to Luxor, even dealing with such classic travel tribulations as pushy guides and greedy souvenir vendors. His work inspired legions of other ancient travelers to explore this magical, haunted land, creating a fascination that reemerged during the Victorian age and remains with us today. In fact, Herodotus qualifies not just as the Father of History, but the Father of Cultural Travel itself, revealing to the ancient Greeks—who rarely deemed a foreign society worthy of interest—the rewards of exploring a distant, alien world.

 2. Marco Polo, The Travels of Marco Polo (c.1300)

When the 13th-century Venetian merchant Marco Polo returned home after two decades wandering China, Persia and Indonesia, the stories he and his two brothers told were dismissed as outright fiction—until (legend goes) the trio sliced open the hems of their garments, and hundreds of gems poured to the ground in a glittering cascade. Still, Polo's adventure might have remained all but unknown to posterity if an accident had not allowed him to overcome his writer's block: Imprisoned by the Genoans in 1298 after a naval battle, he used his enforced leisure time to dictate his memoirs to his cellmate, the romance writer Rustichello da Pisa. The resulting volume, filled with marvelous observations about Chinese cities and customs and encounters with the potentate Kublai Khan (and including, admittedly, some outrageous exaggerations), has been a bestseller ever since, and indelibly defined the Western view of the Orient. There is evidence that Polo intended his book to be a practical guide for future merchants to follow his path. The vision of fabulous Chinese wealth certainly inspired one eager and adventurous reader, fellow Italian Christopher Columbus, to seek a new ocean route to the Orient. (Of course, Islamic scholars will point out that the 14th-century explorer Ibn Battuta traveled three times as far as Polo around Africa, Asia and China, but his monumental work Rihla, “The Journey,” remained little known in the West until the mid-19th century).

3. Laurence Sterne, A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy (1768)

When the author of Tristram Shandy penned this extraordinary autobiographical novel, the Grand Tour of Europe as a rite of passage was in full swing. Wealthy young British aristocrats (almost invariably male), took educational expeditions to the great cultural sites of Paris, Venice, Rome and Naples, seeking out the classical sites and Renaissance artworks in the company of an erudite “bear leader,” or tour guide. Sterne's rollicking book suddenly turned the sober Grand Tour principle on its head. The narrator deliberately avoids all the great monuments and cathedrals, and instead embarks on a personal voyage, to meet unusual people, seeking out new and spontaneous experiences: (“'tis a quiet journey of the heart in pursuit of NATURE, and those affections which arise out of her, which make us love each other—and the world, better than we do.”) His meandering journey across France and Italy is filled with amusing encounters, often of an amorous nature (involving assorted chamber maids and having to share rooms in inns with member of the opposite sex), which prefigures the Romantic era's vision of travel as a journey of self-discovery. Even today, most “true travelers” pride themselves on finding vivid and unique experiences, rather than generic tourist snapshots or lazy escapes.

4. Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad (1869)

Writers of the Gilded Age (a term Mark Twain incidentally coined) produced thousands of earnest and tedious travel books, a tendency that Twain deftly deflated with Innocents Abroad. Sent as a journalist on a group cruise tour to see the great sights of Europe and the Holy Land, Twain filed a series of hilarious columns to the Alta California newspaper that he later reworked into this classic work. With its timely, self-deprecating humor, it touched a deep chord, lampooning the naïveté of his fellow Americans (“The gentle reader will never, never know what a consummate ass he can become until he goes abroad”) and the modest indignities of exploring the sophisticated Old World (“In Paris they just simply opened their eyes and stared when we spoke to them in French! We never did succeed in making those idiots understand their own language.”) The result was to embolden many more of his fellow countrymen to fearlessly cross the pond and immerse themselves in Europe, and, hardly less importantly, to begin a new style of comic travel writing that echoes today through hugely popular modern authors such as Bill Bryson. Today, Innocents Abroad is one of the few 19th-century travel books that is still read eagerly for pleasure. (Its perfect companion is, of course, Roughing It, Twain's account of his misspent youth as a miner in the wild American West).

5. Norman Douglas, Siren Land (1911)

The Italian island of Capri began its proud reputation for licentiousness in ancient Roman times, and by the mid-19 century was luring free-living artists, writers and bon vivants from chilly northern climes. (It was even said that Europe had two art capitals, Paris and Capri). But its modern reputation was sealed by the libertine writer Norman Douglas, whose volume Siren Land offered an account of the carefree southern Italian life “where paganism and nudity and laughter flourished,” an image confirmed by his 1917 novel South Wind, where the island is called Nepenthe, after the ancient Greek elixir of forgetfulness. (Siren Land gets its title from Homer’s Odyssey; Capri was the home of the Sirens, ravishing women who lured sailors to their deaths by shipwreck with their magical voices). Millions of sun-starved British readers were captivated by the vision of Mediterranean sensuality and Douglas' playful humor. (“It is rather puzzling when one comes to think of it,” he writes, “to conceive how the old Sirens passed their time on days of wintry storm. Modern ones would call for cigarettes, Grand Marnier, and a pack of cards, and bid the gale howl itself out.”) Douglas himself was flamboyantly gay, and liked to scamper drunkenly around Capri’s gardens with vine leaves in his hair. Thanks largely to his writings, the island in the 1920s entered a new golden age, luring exiles disillusioned by post-war Europe. The visitors included many great British authors who also penned travel writing classics, such as D.H. Lawrence (whose marvelous Etruscan Places covers his travels in Italy; Lawrence also showed drafts of the torrid Lady Chatterly’s Lover to friends while on holiday in Capri in 1926), E.M Forster, Christopher Isherwood, Aldous Huxley, Graham Greene and W.H. Auden. (The renowned poet wrote a travel volume on Iceland, of all places). The collective vision of Mediterranean freedom has inspired generations of travelers to those warm shores ever since.

6. Freya Stark, The Valley of the Assassins (1934)

The Victorian age produced a surprising number of adventurous women travel writers—Isabella Bird, for instance, wrote about exploring Hawaii, the Rocky Mountains and China—but the authors were regarded as rare and eccentric exceptions rather than role models by female readers. In the more liberated era of the 1930s, Freya Stark's tome revealed just how far women could travel alone and live to write about it. Her breakthrough book, The Valley of the Assassins, was a thrilling account of her journey through the Middle East. Its highlight was her visit to the ruined stronghold of the Seven Lords of Alamut, a medieval cult of hashish-eating political killers in the Elburz Mountains of Iran whose exploits had been legendary in the West since the Crusades. (The singular escapade made her one of the first women ever inducted into the Royal Geographical Society.) The bestseller was followed by some two dozen works whose freshness and candor inspired women to venture, if not by donkey into war zones, at least into exotic climes. “To awaken quite alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world,” she enthused in Baghdad Sketches. “You have no idea of what is in store for you, but you will, if you are wise and know the art of travel, let yourself go on the stream of the unknown and accept whatever comes in the spirit in which the gods may offer it.”

7. Jack Kerouac, On the Road (1957)

This thinly veiled autobiographical novel, about a group of young friends hitch-hiking and bumming their way across the United States, has inspired generations of restless readers to take a leap into the unknown. Although the publisher made Kerouac change the actual names (Kerouac became Sal Paradise, the wild driver Neal Cassady became Dean Moriarty and poet Allen Ginsberg became Carlo Marx), its episodes were almost entirely drawn from life, qualifying it as a classic of travel writing. It was also a cultural phenomenon: Kerouac legendarily hammered out the whole lyrical work on a giant scroll of paper (possibly on one speed-induced binge), and carried it about in his rucksack for years before it was published, becoming an instant icon of the rebellious “beat” era, thumbing its nose at the leaden conformity of the cold war era. Today, it is still a dangerous book to read at an impressionable age (at least for younger males; women tend to be left out of the boyish pursuits, except as sex objects). The delirious sense of freedom as Kerouac rides across the wheat fields of Nebraska in the back of a farm truck or speeds across the Wyoming Rockies toward Denver is infectious.

8. Tony and Maureen Wheeler, Across Asia on the Cheap (1973)

It was one of history's great self-publishing success stories. When two young travelers roughed it in a minivan from London to Sydney, they decided to write a practical guide about their experiences. Working on a kitchen table, they typed out a list of their favorite budget hotels and cheap restaurants from Tehran to Djakarta, stapled the copied pages together into a 90-page booklet and sold it for $1.80 a pop. Their instincts were correct: There was a huge hunger for information on how to travel on a budget in the Third World, and the modest booklet sold 1,500 copies in a week. The hit became the basis for Lonely Planet, a vast guidebook empire with books on almost every country on earth. The young and financially challenged felt welcomed into the exotic corners of Nepal, Morocco and Thailand, far from the realm of five-star hotels and tour groups, often for a few dollars a day. The guidebooks' power quickly became such that in many countries, a recommendation is still enough to make a hotelier's fortune. (Having sold 100 million copies of their guidebooks, the Wheelers finally sold Lonely Planet for £130 million in 2010 to the BBC. (The BBC recently confirmed plans to sell the franchise to NC2 Media at a loss for just £51.5 million. Nobody ever claimed Across Asia was high literature, but the Wheelers now help fund a literary institution, The Wheeler Center, in their home city of Melbourne, Australia, to promote serious fiction and non-fiction). 

9. Bruce Chatwin, In Patagonia (1977)

Along with Paul Theroux's wildly entertaining Great Railway Bazaar, Chatwin's slim, enigmatic volume became widely credited with the modern rebirth of travel writing. A former Sotheby's art auctioneer, the erudite Chatwin famously quit the London Sunday Times Magazine via telegram to his editor (“Have gone to Patagonia”) and disappeared into the then little-known and remote tip of South America. In a stylistic first for the genre, In Patagonia weaves a personal quest (for a piece of prehistoric skin of the mylodon, which the author had seen as a child) with the region's most surreal historical episodes, related in a poetic, crisp and laconic style. Focusing on god-forsaken outposts rather than popular attractions, Chatwin evokes the haunting ambiance with deftly drawn vignettes from Patagonia's storybook past, such as how Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid lived in a cabin in southern Argentina, or how a Welsh nationalist colony was begun in the windswept town of Trelew. And thus the quirky travel pilgrimage was born.

 10. Peter Mayle, A Year in Provence (1989)

Mayle's breezy account of his mid-life decision to escape dark and sodden England to renovate a farmhouse in Ménerbes, a village in the south of France, created an entire sub-genre of do-it-yourself travel memoirs filled with charmingly quirky locals. It also inspired thousands to physically emulate his life-changing project, flooding Provence and other sunny idylls with expats in search of a rustic fixer-upper and supplies of cheap wine. Aided by the relaxed residency laws of the European Union, discount airlines and France's super-fast TGV trains, the once-impoverished southern France quickly became gentrified by retirees from Manchester, Hamburg and Stockholm, until it is now, in the words of one critic, a “bourgeois theme park for foreigners.” (Tuscany became equally popular, thanks to Frances Mayes' beguiling books, with the shores of Spain and Portugal following suit). Things got so crowded that Mayle himself moved out – although he has since returned to a different tiny village, Lourmarin, a stone's throw from his original haunt. In recent years, Elizabeth Gilbert's wildly successful Eat Pray Love (2007) offered a similar spirit of personal reinvention, inspiring a new wave of travelers to follow her  path to the town of Ubud in Bali in search of spiritual (and romantic) fulfillment

 

A Smithsonian Magazine Contributing Writer, Tony Perrottet is the author of five travel and history books, including Pagan Holiday: On the Trail of Ancient Roman Tourists and The Sinner's Grand Tour: A Journey Through the Historical Underbelly of Europe; www.tonyperrottet.com

Catalonia: A Welcoming Plaza, a Cohesive Society

Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage

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For many who follow European cultural life—and the continent’s political life, too—it is undoubtedly true that Catalans are a community who are proud of their language and culture and who fight vigorously to preserve their identity.

Events over the last few years have fueled this widespread perception, though it is far from a recent or temporary phenomenon. It is part of a long history that has been visibly present for the last hundred years at least. This stubbornness in maintaining our own cultural identity, and demanding political self-government on the basis of that identity, is common knowledge among many observers, however positive, negative, or indifferent their take on it may be. Yet there are two other features of twentieth-century and early twenty-first-century Catalonia that are exception but perhaps not as well known.

The first of these is that Catalonia is one of the European regions that saw the greatest demographic growth over the course of the twentieth century. Despite its extremely low birth rate, Catalonia’s population more than doubled during that century, from under three million to seven million, due to an influx in immigration.

The second is that Catalonia has an exceptional association network—especially when we compare it to other European regions—in such fields as culture, sport, education, and health care. This has enabled it to keep its own personality and some essential features of cultural identity, even during the long periods of military dictatorship in Spain.

These three notable features of contemporary Catalan reality, in my opinion, are interrelated: each is both the cause and effect of the other two.

These features are not new to Catalan society. They are not merely the product of recent events: the economic crisis, the new immigration from outside the European Union, the end of Francoism, the political power from establishing an autonomous government. They pervade the twentieth century, though their roots date back even further.

To avoid going back too far, let’s situate ourselves at the end of the nineteenth century. The Spanish-American War of 1898 ended with Spain losing her last overseas colonies, Cuba and the Philippines. Spain was faced with the collapse of her colonial empire, a need to redefine the Spanish national identity, and a growing sense of having failed to fully incorporate herself into the modern Western world. Her defeat at the hands of the United States was a consequence of this failure to modernize and the cause of some sad and desolate introspection.

Curiously, at the same time, a strong “regenerationist” spirit was growing in Catalonia—in contrast to the rest of Spain—which aspired to incorporate into the modern world while ridding itself of the anachronistic view of the world that the values of the Counter-Reformation had imbued in Spanish culture.

Why did Catalonia react differently than the rest of Spain at the end of the century? Part of the answer lies in its different experience in the nineteenth century. On a cultural level, romanticism led to the Catalan Renaissance and an appreciation of the Catalan language and culture. On an economic level, Catalonia was one of the few regions in southern Europe to have carried out an industrial revolution in the nineteenth century, based on an agrarian revolution in the previous century.

So we find ourselves before an industrialized society, exposed to the strong social tensions of the time, looking at European modernity with envy—yet feeling like a part of it—while appreciating its own history and identity, very much centered on language, as an asset and a gift. Given this background, the Catalan reaction to the moral crisis of 1898 was an attempt at regeneration aimed primarily at the whole of Spain which, inasmuch as it failed to make any impact there, ended up focusing on the modernization of Catalonia.

Politically, that gave rise to political “Catalanism”: initially pro-autonomy, often federalist and, at varying times, pro-independence. Aesthetically, this regenerationist movement raised the banner of Modernism—the name is significant, demonstrating a determination to be modern—as a cross-cutting, widespread, popular idea. And, above all, the regenerationist reaction, colored by a lack of confidence in an anachronistic state—“Farewell, Spain!” poet Joan Maragall wrote in “Oda a Espanya” in 1898, referring more to living on the margins of the Spanish state than to making a new one—led to an extraordinary profusion of associations, sports clubs, choirs, publications, excursionist and scientific centers, workers’ and artisans cultural centers, and so on. Between 1898 and 1905, the big Catalan private institutions were founded: Barça, Foment de les Arts Decoratives, the Automòbil Club, and others. The great iconic monuments of Modernism arose from civil society: Palau de la Música, Hospital de Sant Pau, Parc Güell, and other great works designed by Antoni Gaudí.

Catalonia thus began the twentieth century with a network of cultural associations that were infused with a Catalan identity, linked to reclaiming the Catalan language, and present in every sphere of collective life: health care, education, recreation, sports, and so on. It was as if it knew what lay in store over the course of the twentieth century: a tragic political history, with a civil war that decimated an entire generation between the front line, exile, and repression, and two military dictatorships hostile to Catalan aspirations.

At the same time, several migratory waves attracted by Catalonia’s industrial strength, first in the 1920s and later in the 1950s and 1960s, meant that it received over three million people who did not speak its language and, in many cases, did not even realize there was a different language. Were it not for the safety net of that civil society, maintained and grown in a hundred years, we would have had a very different Catalonia by the end of the twentieth century. Its language would have hardly survived, at least as a living language. Social cohesion would have collapsed. Yet according to many scholars, the twentieth century was, paradoxically, the golden age of Catalan language and culture.

How can we explain this paradox? Let us use the metaphor of a town plaza. Increasingly in twentieth-century societies, with the arrival of outside contingents who have different cultural references, we find that any country or city is the sum of shared spaces and differentiated spaces. Each individual, family, and community has its own traditions, religion, language, foods, and attitudes. However, for there to be a society, some things also need to be shared: a language for relating to one another, rules of behavior, a sense of belonging, and basic values.

If the city is a group of homes, each with its own specific things, then the plaza is the things we share. The size of this plaza varies, but there has to be some public space to ensure social cohesion. The plaza attracts and establishes the whole, turning a collection of homes or people into a city or society.

Throughout the twentieth century, a cultural and civic Catalan nationalism constructed a plaza of shared things at the heart of Catalan society, through a very dense network of associations. Therein lies its strength and success. It has helped to maintain cultural debate and activity, public life, and social initiative. And, at the same time, it has also offered a landing strip for those who have come from outside, providing an alternative to ghettoes and isolation. It has made our society, our city, what it is, where there might have been isolated bubbles, each with its own rules, without anything binding them together.

It has not been an unmitigated success: there are, so to speak, households that never join the plaza. But in this plaza, over the course of a hundred years, Catalonia has forged a structured community with considerable social cohesion, where the Catalan language and Catalan culture have miraculously survived. This is not some positive, surprising, collateral effect: we created the plaza for precisely this purpose.

Vicenç Villatoro is a writer and journalist in Catalonia. He has also served as the director of cultural promotion for the Catalan government and director of the Institut Ramon Llull, partners for the Catalonia program at the 2018 Folklife Festival.

Barcelona Catalonia plaza
Residents of Barcelona gather in the Plaza de San Jaime calling for the establishment of a Catalan State within the Spanish Federal Republic in 1873.
Drawing by José Luis Pellicer, engraving by Bernardo Rico, Wikimedia Commons

Catalunya: una plaça que acull, una societat que es vertebra

Per a bona part de les persones que segueixen amb interès la vida cultural europea –o també la vida política del continent-, és gairebé un lloc comú que els catalans són una comunitat orgullosa de la seva llengua i cultura i que milita intensament en la preservació de la seva identitat. Els esdeveniments dels darrers anys han generalitzat aquesta percepció, que no apareix com un fenomen recent i conjuntural, sinó que lliga amb una llarga història i que és present d’una manera visible en els últims cent anys, com a mínim. Aquesta tossuderia en el manteniment d’una identitat cultural pròpia i en la petició, a partir d’aquesta identitat, d’un autogovern polític, és una dada de coneixement força comú entre tota mena d’observadors, més enllà de les valoracions positives, negatives o indiferents que cadascú en pugui fer. Però sense sortir del terreny de la cultura i de la identitat cultural, o de qüestions que s’hi poden relacionar, hi ha dues característiques més de la Catalunya del segle XX i començament del segle XXI que potser no són tan conegudes, però que tenen també un punt d’excepcionals.

La primera d’aquestes característiques és que Catalunya és un dels territoris europeus que ha tingut al llarg del segle XX un creixement demogràfic més important, a partir de la recepció de població nascuda fora: tot i les taxes de natalitat extremadament baixes, la població de Catalunya s’ha més que duplicat en aquest segle, passant de menys de tres milions d’habitants a set milions, gràcies a l’aportació de la immigració. L’altra característica menys coneguda és que Catalunya té –sobretot en relació a d’altres territoris europeus- un teixit associatiu excepcional en camps com la cultura, l’esport, l’ensenyament o la sanitat, cosa que li ha permès mantenir la personalitat pròpia i alguns elements essencials de l‘estat del benestar fins i tot en els llargs períodes del segle XX amb dictadures militars a Espanya, hostils al fet català. Són tres característiques notables de la realitat catalana contemporània, són característiques que al meu parer es relacionen entre elles: cadascuna és a la vegada causa i efecte de les altres dues.

Aquestes característiques no són noves a la societat catalana. No són el producte només d’esdeveniments recents: la crisi econòmica, la nova immigració extracomunitària, la fi del franquisme, l’existència d’un cert poder polític propi amb la Generalitat autònoma... Travessen tot el segle XX, tot i que tenen arrels més allunyades. Per no anar massa enrere, posem-nos en el final del segle XIX. La guerra entre Espanya i els Estats Units del 1898, que representa per a Espanya la pèrdua de les darreres colònies d’ultramar, Cuba i Filipines, provoca una crisi moral a la península d’enormes dimensions: Espanya afronta al mateix temps la seva fi com a imperi colonial, una certa dificultat per redefinir la identitat nacional espanyola sense aquesta idea imperial i una creixent sensació de no haver-se incorporat plenament a la modernitat occidental. La derrota amb estats Units seria la conseqüència d’aquesta manca de modernització i la causa d’una introspecció entristida i desolada. Curiosament, en aquest instant, a Catalunya –a diferència de la resta d’Espanya- hi qualla un fort sentiment regeneracionista, que pretén aquesta incorporació a la modernitat i desempallegar-se de la mirada anacrònica al món que han deixat en la cultura espanyol els valors de la contrareforma.

Per què Catalunya reacciona en aquella fi de segle d’una manera diferent a la resta d’Espanya? En part perquè ha tingut un segle XIX diferent. Culturalment, l’impacte del romanticisme ha portat a la Renaixença, a la valoració de la llengua i la cultura pròpies, que s’havien donat per mortes per a la república de les lletres. Econòmicament, Catalunya ha fet en el segle XIX una de les escasses revolucions industrials al sud d’Europa, a partir d’una revolució agrària en el segle anterior. Ens trobem doncs davant d’una societat industrialitzada, amb tensions socials fortes a la manera contemporània, que mira a la modernitat europea amb enveja –però amb la sensació de formar-ne part- i que valora la seva història i la  identitat, molt centrada en la llengua, com un actiu e present. Amb aquests antecedents, la reacció catalana a la crisi moral del 1898 serà un intent de regeneració que es dirigeix en primer lloc al conjunt espanyol i que en la mesura que no hi troba ressò acaba centrant-se en la modernització de Catalunya.

En política, això voldrà dir l’aparició del catalanisme polític, autonomista en un inici, sovint federalista, en ocasions oscil·lants independentista. En estètica, aquest regeneracionisme alçarà les banderes del modernisme –el nom és significatiu: la voluntat de ser modern- convertit en una proposta transversal, estesa i popular. I sobretot, la reacció regeneracionista i de desconfiança davant d’un estat anacrònic –Adéu, Espanya! dirà Joan Maragall, més per viure al marge de l’estat espanyol que no pas per fer-ne un del nou- generarà una florida extraordinària d’associacions, clubs esportius, corals, publicacions, centres excursionistes i científics, ateneus obrers o menestrals... Entre 1898 i el 1905 es funden les grans institucions privades catalanes –el Barça, el Foment de les Arts Decoratives, l’Automòbil Club...- i s’alçaran des de la societat civil els grans monuments emblemàtics del modernisme: el Palau de la Música, l’Hospital de sant Pau, el parc Güell i altres grans obres de Gaudí...

Catalunya comença així el segle XX amb un teixit associatiu, sobretot cultural, impregnat de catalanitat, lligat a la reivindicació de la llengua pròpia, i amb presència en tots els àmbits de la vida col·lectiva: sanitari, educatiu, recreatiu, esportiu, social... Com si sabés el que li esperaria al llarg del segle XX: una història política tràgica, amb una guerra civil que decapita tota una generació entre el front, l’exili i la repressió, i dues dictadures militars hostils a la catalanitat. I, en un altre ordre de coses, algunes onades migratòries, atretes per la seva força industrial, centrades en els anys vint i després en els cinquanta i seixanta, que signifiquen, en resum, que un país que tenia poc més de dos milions i mig d’habitants l’any 1900 rep al llarg d’un segle més de tres milions de persones vingudes de fora del seu territori, que no parlen la seva llengua i que en molts casos ni tant sols saben que s’hi parla una llengua diferent. Sense el coixí d’aquella societat civil, mantinguda i crescuda en cent anys, la Catalunya de finals del XX segurament seria molt diferent a com és. La llengua difícilment hauria sobreviscut, si mes no com una llengua viva. La cohesió social s’hauria trencat. I resulta que per a molts estudiosos aquest segle XX ha estat, paradoxalment, el veritable segle d’or de la llengua i la cultura catalanes.

Com s’explica aquesta paradoxa? Instal·lem-nos, per explicar.-ho, en una metàfora. En les societats del segle XX, d’una manera creixent, amb l’arribada de contingents vinguts de fora, amb referents culturals diferents, ens trobem que qualsevol país o ciutat és la suma d’uns espais compartits i d’uns espais diferenciats. Hi ha coses, referències culturals, valors, actituds, que són de caràcter individual familiar o comunitari: cadascú té les seves a casa seva. La religió, la llengua de comunicació familiar (que pot ser també la llengua de creació cultural), els costums, el menjar... Però perquè hi hagi una societat, a més d’haver-hi coses diferents a cada casa ha d’haver-n’hi també algunes compartides: una llengua de relació, unes normes de conducta, un sentit de pertinença, alguns valors bàsics. En la metàfora, diríem que una ciutat és un conjunt de cases (cadascuna amb les seves coses específiques) i una plaça pública, on hi ha les coses compartides. La mida d’aquesta plaça és variable, però hi ha d’haver alguna plaça, per garantir la cohesió social, que neix de l’equilibri, mòbil, inestable, canviant, sovint per tempteig, entre les urbanitzacions de les cases i la plaça compartida. Aquesta plaça és la que cohesiona, atrau i sedimenta el conjunt: allò que fa que una suma de cases o de persones esdevingui una ciutat o una societat.

Durant tot el segle XX, en el centre de la societat catalana el catalanisme cultural i cívic ha construït una plaça pública de coses compartides, a través d’una xarxa molt densa d’associacions, entitats, ateneus... És aquesta la seva força i ha estat el seu èxit. Ha permès mantenir el debat i l’activitat cultural, la vida pública, la iniciativa social. I al mateix temps ha ofert una pista d’aterratge a les persones vingudes de fora, alternativa al ghetto o a l’aïllament. Ha fet societat, ciutat, on hauria pogut haver-hi estrictament urbanització, unes bombolles aïllades cadascuna amb les seves regles, sense res que les relligués. Certament, no ha estat un èxit absolut: hi ha bombolles i hi ha, per dir-ho així, urbanitzacions que mai no baixen a plaça. Però és en aquesta plaça on s’ha forjat al llarg de cent anys una comunitat vertebrada, una considerable cohesió social i una miraculosa pervivència de la llengua i la cultura catalanes. No és un efecte colateral positiu i sorprenent: per a això es va fer.

Vicenç Villatoro. Escriptor i periodista. Com a escriptor ha publicat una trentena d'obres literàries, en narrativa, poesia i assaig. Com a periodista ha dirigit el diari Avui i la televisió i la ràdio públiques de Catalunya, a més de publicar articles periòdicament en diversos mitjans. Ha estat responsable de la promoció cultural i de la projecció exterior de la cultura catalana en el govern de Catalunya i diputat al Parlament.

Preserving Silence in National Parks

Smithsonian Magazine

The preservation of natural sounds in our national parks is a relatively new and still evolving project. The same can be said of our national parks. What Wallace Stegner called "the best idea we ever had"* did not spring full grown from the American mind. The painter George Catlin first proposed the park idea in 1832, but it was not until 1872 that Yellowstone became the first of our current 391 parks. Only much later did the public recognize the park's ecological value; the setting aside of Yellowstone had more to do with the preservation of visually stunning natural monuments than with any nascent environmentalism. Not until 1934, with the establishment of Everglades, was a national park instituted for the express purpose of protecting wildlife. And not until 1996 was Catlin's vision of a prairie park of "monotonous" landscape, with "desolate fields of silence (yet of beauty)," realized in Tall Grass Prairie National Preserve in Kansas.

As one more step in this gradual evolution, the Park Service established a Natural Sounds Program in 2000 with the aim of protecting and promoting the appreciation of park soundscapes. It would be a mistake to think of this aim as having originated "on high." In a 1998 study conducted by the University of Colorado, 76 percent of the Americans surveyed saw the opportunity to experience "natural peace and the sounds of nature" as a "very important" reason for preserving national parks.

But noise in parks, as in society at large, is on the rise—to the extent that peak-season decibel levels in the busiest areas of certain major parks rival those of New York City streets. Airplanes, cars, park maintenance machinery, campground generators, snowmobiles, and personal watercraft all contribute to the general commotion. The more room we make for our machines, the less room—and quiet—we leave for ourselves.

*Apparently Stegner was not the first to think so.  In 1912 James Bryce, the British ambassador to the United States, said that "the national park is the best idea American ever had."

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Several times I heard park officials refer to the Natural Sounds office in Fort Collins, Colorado, as "Karen Trevino's shop," a good description of what I found when I stepped through the door. Cases of sound equipment—cables, decibel meters, microphones—were laid out like a dorm room's worth of gear on the hallway carpet, not far from several bicycles that staffers, most of them in their 20s, ride to work. A few members of the team were preparing for several days of intensive work out in the field. As animated as any of them was Karen Trevino.

"If the mayor of New York City is trying to make what people expect to be a noisy place quieter," she said, referring to the Bloomberg administration's 2007 revision of the city noise code, "what should we be doing in places that people expect to be quiet?" 

As a step toward answering that question, Trevino and her crew calibrate sound level information and convert it into color-coded visual representations that allow a day's worth of sound levels, and even an entire park's sound profile, to be seen at a glance. (Probably by the beginning of 2009 readers will be able to see some of these profiles at http://www.westernsoundscape.org.) The technicians also make digital sound recordings to develop a "dictionary" by which these visual depictions can be interpreted. Much of their research is focused on creating plans to manage the roughly 185,000 air tours that fly over our parks each year—a major mandate of the National Parks Air Tour Management Act of 2000. The team is currently working on its first proposal, for Mount Rushmore, a 1200 acre unit with 5600 air tour overflights a year. Franklin Roosevelt once called this park "the shrine of democracy."

"When you think about it," Trevino says, "what's the highest tribute we pay in this country—really, in the world—of reverence and respect? A moment of silence. Now, that said, nature isn't silent. It can be very noisy. And people in parks aren't quiet all the time." Neither are things like cannon in a historical park like Gettysburg—nor should they be, according to Trevino. "Our job from a public policy standpoint is asking what noises are appropriate, and if they're appropriate, are they at acceptable levels?"

Trevino sees this as a learning process, not only for her young department but also for her. Some of what she's learned has passed to her private life. Recently she asked her babysitter to stop using the terms "indoor voice" and "outdoor voice" with her young children. "Sometimes it's perfectly appropriate to scream when you're indoors and to be very quiet when you're outdoors," she says.

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Though much remains to be done, the Park Service has already made significant progress in combating noise. A propane-fueled shuttle system in Zion National Park has reduced traffic jams and carbon emissions and also made the canyon quieter. In Muir Woods, library-style "quiet" signs help keep the volume down; social scientists have found (somewhat to their surprise) that the ability to hear natural sounds—15 minutes away from San Francisco and in a park celebrated mostly for the visual magnificence of its trees—ranks high with visitors. In Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, which have a major naval air station to the west and a large military air training space to the east, park officials take military commanders on a five-day "Wilderness Orientation Overflight Pack Trip" to demonstrate the effects of military jet noise on visitor experience in the parks. Before the program started in the mid-1990s, rangers reported as many as 100 prohibited "low flier" incidents involving military jets every year. Now the number of planes flying less than 3000 feet above the ground surface is a fourth to a fifth of that. Complaints are taken seriously, especially when, as has happened more than once, they're radioed in by irate military commanders riding on jet-spooked pack horses on narrow mountain trails. In that context, human cursing is generally regarded as a natural sound.

Image by Alexandra Picavet. View of Mineral King Valley at Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park from a honeymoon cabin. (original image)

Image by Mark Lellouch, NPS. A group of boaters make their way down the peaceful Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. (original image)

Image by National Park Services. Sheep Lakes at Rocky Mountain National Park (original image)

Image by Mark Lellouch, NPS. View of the Grand Canyon from the Yavapai Observation Station. (original image)

Image by National Park Service. Sprague Lake at Rocky Mountain National Park (original image)

Image by National Park Services. A rainbow emerges over the Grand Canyon. (original image)

Image by Alexandra Picavet. Large sequoia trees at Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park. (original image)

Sometimes the initiative to combat noise has come from outside the park system. Rocky Mountain National Park, for example, has the distinction of being the only one in the nation with a federal ban on air tour over-flights, thanks mostly to the League of Women Voters chapter in neighboring Estes Park. Park Planner Larry Gamble took me to see the plaque the League erected in honor of the natural soundscape. It was in the perfect spot, with a small stream gurgling nearby and the wind blowing through the branches of two venerable aspens. Gamble and I walked up a glacial moraine to a place where we heard wood frogs singing below us and a hawk crying as it circled in front of snow-capped Long's Peak. But in the twenty minutes since we'd begun our walk, Gamble and I counted almost a dozen jets, all in audible descent toward the Denver airport. I'd flown in on one of them the day before.

The most intractable noise problem in our national parks comes from the sky. The reasons for this are both acoustical, in terms of how sound propagates from the air, and political. The skies above the parks are not managed by parks. All commercial air space in the US is governed by the Federal Aviation Administration, which has a reputation for safeguarding both its regulatory prerogatives and what is often referred to in aviation parlance as "the freedom of the skies." Passengers taking advantage of that freedom in the United States numbered around 760 million last year. But much of the controversy about aircraft noise in our parks has centered on air tours.

A twenty-year dispute over air-tours above the Grand Canyon has involved all three branches of the federal government and, for protraction and difficulty, makes the court case in Bleak House look like a session with Judge Judy. A breakthrough seemed likely when the Grand Canyon Working Group, which includes representatives of the Park Service, the FAA, the air tour industry, environmental organizations, tribal leaders, and other affected parties, eventually managed to agree on two critical points. First, the Park Service's proposal that "the substantial restoration of natural quiet" called for in the 1987 Grand Canyon Overflights Act meant that 50 percent or more of the park should be free of aircraft noise 75 percent or more of the time (with no limits established for the other 50 percent). They also agreed on the computer model of the park's acoustics that would be used to determine if and when those requirements had been met. All that remained was to plug in the data.

The results were startling. Even when air tour overflights were factored out entirely, the model showed that only 2 percent of the park was quiet 75 percent of the time, due to noise from hundreds of daily commercial flights above 18,000 feet. In other words, air tours could be abolished altogether and the park would still be awash in the noise of aviation. Those findings came in over two years ago. The Park Service has since redefined the standard to apply only to aircraft flying below 18,000 feet. The Working Group has yet to meet this year.

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Noise can be characterized as a minor issue. The pollution of a soundscape is hardly as momentous as the pollution of the seas. But the failure of an animal to hear a mating call—or a predator—over a noise event is neither insignificant nor undocumented. (One 2007 study shows the deleterious effects of industrial noise on the pairing success of ovenbirds; another from 2006 shows significant modifications in the "antipredator behavior" of California ground squirrels living near wind turbines.) On the human side, the inability of a park visitor to hear 10 percent of an interpretative talk, or the inability to enjoy natural quiet for fifteen minutes out of an hour's hike—as the Grand Canyon plan allows—does not mean that the visitor understood 90 percent of the presentation or that the hiker enjoyed her remaining forty-five minutes on the trail.

In dismissing the effects of noise, we dismiss the importance of the small creature and the small human moment, an attitude with environmental and cultural costs that are anything but small. Not least of all we're dismissing intimacy: the firsthand knowledge and love of living things that can never come exclusively through the eye, the screen, the windshield—or on the run. This struck home for me in a chat with several members of the League of Women Voters in a noisy coffee house in Estes Park, Colorado. I'd come to learn more about the air tour ban over Rocky Mountain National Park and ended by asking why the park and its natural sounds were so important to them.

"Many people just drive through the park," said Helen Hondius, straining to be heard above the merciless grinding of a latte machine, "so for them it's just the visual beauty." For Hondius and her friends, however, all of whom walk regularly over the trails, the place needed to be heard as well as seen. "It's like anything else," Lynn Young added, "when you take the time to enjoy it, the park becomes a part of what you are. It can shape you."

Robert Manning of the University of Vermont has worked with the park system for three decades on issues of "carrying capacity"—the sustainable level of population and activity for an environmental unit—and more recently on issues of noise. He feels that the park system should "offer what individuals are prepared for at any given stage in their life cycle." In short, it should offer what he calls "an opportunity to evolve." He admires people "who've developed their appreciation of nature to the extent that they're willing and anxious to put on their packs and go out and hike, maybe for a day, maybe for a two-week epic adventure, walking lightly on the land, with only the essentials. But—those people probably didn't start there. I bet a lot of them went on a family camping trip when they were kids. Mom and Dad packed them into the car in the classic American pilgrimage and went out for two weeks' vacation and visited fifteen national parks in two weeks and had a wonderful time."

Seen from Manning's perspective, the social task of the national parks is to provide an experience of nature that is both available to people as they are and suitable to people as they might become. Such a task is robustly democratic and aggressively inclusive, but it is not easily achieved. It obliges us to grow, to evolve as the parks themselves have evolved, and we may best be able to determine how far we have come by how many natural sounds we can hear.

Garret Keizer is at work on a book about the history and politics of noise. You can contribute a story to his research at: www.noisestories.com.

Network Control Operations Display

National Air and Space Museum
Network Control Operations Display, 25 April 1972. A page from a spiral-bound sketchbook. A representation of the Goddard Space Flight Center's network control operations display during the flight of Apollo 16. A row of three rectangular screens crosses the middle of the piece and a map of the world is in the top right. The left screen appears to be a map of the earth against a bright blue ocean. The middle screen is the live TV coverage of astronaut Ken Mattingly walking on the moon. The wider right screen is a graphic presentation of the command module Casper's flight between the earth and the moon. Text in the lower left corner reads: "Apollo 16, 25 April 72, 15:30 hours / Ken Mattingly "walks" in deep space to retreive (sic) the mapping camara (sic) film cassettes from the service module bay - As seen on the Goddard Space Flight Center's Network Control Operations Display. Live TV on the Left…A graphic representation of "Casper's" flight path on the right." The text in the center of the bottom margin reads: "-small white "dishes" on the map of earth indicate tracking-stations in use." The text in the lower right corner reads: "-small white circle next to the moon indicates position of sub-satellite released into lunar orbit by Orion yesterday."

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

Impressions From the Home TV Set

National Air and Space Museum
Ink and Colored Pencil on Paper. Impressions from the "Home TV Set," 21 April 1972. A page from a spiral-bound sketchbook. Eight rectangles in the top half of the page portray scenes of Apollo 16 extravehicular activity (EVA) as seen on television. The rectangles are different sizes but are arranged in roughly three columns and three rows. The top left scene rectangle is dark purple with a faint blue figure in the center and a bright white figure in the lower right. The next rectangle to the right is dark blue-green and depicts the earth in the upper right. The rectangle on the far right clearly shows two astronauts and the American flag between them. On the middle row the left rectangle is reddish-purple and shows a bright white, angular figure, presumably an astronaut. To the right is a smaller rectangle showing a corner of red and white stripes and a square that says "United States." The next small rectangle to the right depicts the footprint on the surface of the moon. The left rectangle on the bottom row is reddish-purple and has the vague form of an astronaut. The last rectangle on the right includes two astronauts, the one on the right holding a golf club. The text in the lower right corner reads: "Impressions From the "Home TV Set" Apollo 16 EVA I Young & Duke 21 April 72."

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

Westland Lysander IIIa

National Air and Space Museum
Westland Lysander IIIa army cooperation/liaison high wing aircraft; bent seagull wing shape with trailing edges tapered forward equipped with trailing edge flaps and leading edge slats, which operated automatically; the wing is braced with two pairs of "V" struts; steel tube fuselage with aluminum panels on front half with fabric covered rear; aluminum cowling and aluminum covered fixed undercarriage and wheels; Medium Sea Gray and Dark Green upper camouflage pattern on upper surfaces, Matt Black underside, and Type C1 Fuselage Roundel: yellow, dull blue, white, and dull red, Dull Red Squadron Code "AC"; Bristol Mercury XX nine-cylinder engine.

During World War II, Westland Lysander crews flew highly classified clandestine missions from England over Axis territory. Many of their operational missions remain tightly locked in official secrecy. The Lysander was designed to land and take off from places normally unrecognizable as airfields. The aircraft operated comfortably from pastures, fields, and even clearings in the forest and was effective at inserting secret agents deep into enemy territory.

The museum's Lysander was built in Canada in 1942. Little is known about its service history, but it likely flew as an aerial tow plane for target practice. This aircraft is painted in the colors of 138 Squadron RAF. During World War II, this squadron was based at RAF Tempsford Airfield. It was controlled by the Special Operations Executive and flew clandestine missions supplying resistance forces and transporting agents to and from occupied Europe.

Throughout World War II, Westland Lysanders looked and flew like odd ducks. Their strange appearance was matched only by their mysterious comings and goings at all hours, but usually in the dead of night. The Lysander pilots and crew, and their special cargo, are now free to talk about some of these missions more than fifty years after they occurred. However, most of the operational record on this amazing airplane remains tightly locked in official secrecy.

Its wooden, fabric-covered, wings tapered gracefully, but it alighted and took off at extremely slow speeds on great, bulbous, fixed landing gear. Many derided this apparent throwback as a "tin lizzie." It seemed to buck the aeronautical trend toward ever-higher speeds, straight, smooth, all-metal wings, and retractable landing gear. But the Lysander was designed from the ground up to land in, and take off from, places that no one would normally recognize as an airfield. The Lysander could operate comfortably from pastures, fields, and even clearings in the forest. Its survival, the safety of the crews that flew it, and the men and women it carried depended on this performance. The Lysander was used primarily to drop off and pick up secret agents deep in enemy territory.

In 1935 the Air Ministry issued Specification A.39/34 calling for a two-seat army cooperation aircraft to replace the Hawker Hector. The Royal Air Force manned and led these squadrons but they supported, or cooperated, directly with the British Army. The pilots of army cooperation airplanes performed numerous missions including reconnaissance, artillery spotting, communication, and tactical liaison between Royal Air Force ground attack aircraft squadrons and British Army troops at the front. One of the companies invited to submit a design proposal was Westland Aircraft Limited of Yeovil, Somerset, England. The company was engaged at the time in building the Hector under license from Hawker. Before World War I, Westland had established itself as a maker (under the name Petter) of small oil-burning engines used in agricultural and dairy applications. In 1915 the company approached the government and offered its services for the war effort. With no previous experience, the British Admiralty asked the firm to build airplanes. A tradition began that continues to this day.

Westland's design proposal for Spec A.39/34 was called the P.8. It was mainly the work of Arthur Davenport, under the technical direction of Edward (Teddy) Petter, grandson of the company's founder. According to rumor, an earlier design for a single-engine interceptor was rejected because no one had bothered to ask the Royal Air Force what kind of airplane the service needed. Determined not to repeat the mistake, Petter sought opinions from the Royal Army squadrons that would operate the new aircraft, and he even interviewed his own engineers and pilots. The consensus that emerged favored an airplane with good visibility from the cockpit, the special performance necessary to take-off and land from extremely small areas, and excellent handling at very slow flying speeds.

To see well from the cockpit, Davenport raised the wing to the top of the canopy and braced it with two pairs of sturdy struts. The wing shape was unusual for three reasons. To boost the low-speed characteristics of the airfoil, the wing was thickest at about mid-span but shrank by nearly half at the wing roots. Viewed head-on, the wing bends slightly like the wing of a seagull. The inboard, leading edges tapered toward the tail to allow the pilot to see through the top of the canopy during very steep turns, and the outboard trailing edges tapered forward to give the airplane a snappy roll rate, again to improve maneuvering at slow speeds. To make very slow speed flight possible, the P.8 was the first British service aircraft equipped with trailing edge flaps and leading edge slats. These devices operated automatically and no action by the pilot was required.

Fabric covered the fuselage behind the pilot's cockpit and sheet aluminum covered the nose section. Provisions were made for a flexible .30 cal. machine gun behind the pilot in the observer's cockpit. The distinctive landing gear was the result of some conceptual back and forth between Davenport and Petter. Davenport's original design called for retractable landing gear, but Petter overruled him and insisted on fixed landing gear streamlined with enormous rounded fairings. A landing light and provisions for a machine gun were built into each fairing. The outboard side of each fairing carried fittings and when the need arose, short, stub wings were attached. These held either light bombs, supply containers, or other stores.

In September 1936, after modifications to the horizontal stabilizer, the Air Ministry chose the Westland design and ordered 169 aircraft. It was then the British Army's custom to name cooperation aircraft after classical warriors. Lysander was chosen for the P.8, after a Spartan admiral who defeated the Athenian fleet in 405 BC Westland started production and began delivering finished airplanes in 1938. By the time war broke out in September 1939, seven British Army Lysander squadrons were ready to fly. When the Germans invade France in May 1940, Britain threw as many airplanes as it could spare at the Luftwaffe (German Air Force) including the slow and poorly armed Lysanders. They were decimated. The Lysander excelled in the role for which it was designed but it stood no chance against overwhelming numbers of German fighter aircraft. Lysanders were also not at all suited for ground attack. They were too slow and carried a pitiful load of bombs.

After France capitulated, many Lysanders were reassigned to new roles. Some remained army cooperation aircraft, but modified fighter airplanes increasingly flew this mission. As aerial combat moved over the English Channel and British Isles during Dunkirk and the Battle of Britain, a critical need arose for air-sea rescue aircraft. The Lysander could locate airmen downed at sea and drop them life rafts and supplies. Because an amphibious invasion by German forces could come at anytime, a number of modifications for the Lysander were also proposed. Most involved increasing the armament to make the airplane effective at repelling invaders that managed to land on Britain's shores. One proposal sought to add a 20mm canon to each undercarriage leg. Other ideas included adding a ventral gun position (a version nicknamed the "pregnant perch"), or turrets behind the wings or near the tail. The tail turret also necessitated a revised stabilizer with two vertical fins and rudders. Late in 1940, the threat of invasion eased and none of these modifications was adopted.

As the war entered its third year, the ultimate Lysander mission began to take shape. The Special Operations Executive formed three squadrons of these slow-flying aircraft, 138, 161 and 357 Special Duties squadrons, and began to fly the Lysander to aid the various resistance movements in occupied Europe. They dropped ammunition, explosives, radios and other equipment and transported agents to and from the continent. Westland equipped the Lysander IIIA (SD) specifically for this role, removing the rear guns and adding a ladder near the rear cockpit so that agents could quickly board or exit the airplane. An external fuel tank was also added to increase range. Many times, Lysanders operated from small, unlit fields. These missions were possible only because the airplane had outstanding STOL (short takeoff and landing) performance.

Lysanders flew in other theaters of the war, including the Middle and Far East. Turkey, Ireland, Portugal, South Africa, and France flew the aircraft and the United States used 25 Lysanders to two aerial gunnery targets. The Canadians flew more Lysanders than anyone outside England. They also built 225 aircraft and were tooling-up to supply more airframes to ship to England for final assembly when the war ended.

The museum's Lysander was one of the 225 Mk. IIIs built in Canada during 1942. Little is known about its wartime service, but most of the Canadian Lysanders remained in the country to fly as target tugs and communication aircraft. A relatively large number survived in Canada after the war. Some were converted into cropdusters and farmers bought many at auction for their engine parts. Dwight Brooks of Los Angeles searched for two years before locating a Lysander in a farmer's field in Edmonton, Alberta, during the early 1970s. Brooks spent another year restoring the airplane, a job that required finding several other Canadian Lysanders to obtain parts. He received help from the Bristol Engine Division of Rolls Royce when carburetor problems foiled his attempts to run the Bristol Mercury engine. The Royal Air Force Museum provided the paint scheme and markings data for 138 Squadron RAF. During World War II, this squadron was based at RAF Tempsford Airfield. It was controlled by the Special Operations Executive and flew clandestine missions supplying resistance forces and transporting agents to and from occupied Europe.

Brooks flew the restored Lysander at airshows for several years, but in 1977 he decided to donate the aircraft to the National Air & Space Museum. The Museum acquired title to the aircraft but immediately lent it to the U. S. Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio. NASM recalled the artifact in the late 1980s and it is now on display at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center.

Pitcairn-Cierva PCA-1A

National Air and Space Museum
1929; pca-1a (x95n); 3 seat open cockpit; single fixed wing with regulator wing plan form; upturned rounded tips; wooden ribs with dual leading and trailing edge; spars. single 4 blade rotor dual construction.

Pitcairn-Cierva Autogiro Company of America PCA-1A

In the late 1920's, Harold Pitcairn had established a sterling reputation as a builder of rugged biplanes used by airmail services. He had also founded what would eventually become Eastern Airlines. Yet by 1930, Pitcairn had begun dismantling these enterprises to support the highly speculative venture of developing and producing an American version of Juan de la Cierva's experimental Autogiros. Although, the Autogiro would prove to be a minor player in twentieth century aviation, Pitcairn nonetheless was able to succeed, at least temporarily, in his enterprise and, by 1940, had sold scores of the groundbreaking aircraft. The PCA-1 was Pitcairn's first Autogiro project and successfully demonstrated that he and his engineering staff not only understood Cierva's innovation, but also that they were capable of improving upon it.

The word "Autogiro" is actually a proprietary name coined by Juan de la Cierva. His designs were the first aircraft to fall in the gyroplane category. Nonetheless, nearly all gyroplanes built from the 1920s through the end of World War Two became commonly known as "autogiros" (or the more generic "autogyros"), regardless of the manufacturer. A gyroplane is an aircraft that derives most, if not all, of its lift from the unpowered autorotation of a horizontally mounted rotor or rotors. Unlike a helicopter, an engine does not drive the rotor blades while the aircraft is in flight. Instead, the resultant of the lift and drag forces acts to pull the blade forward in rotation while also creating lift - the same effect that turns the sails on windmills. This state of autorotation is only possible with a sustained airflow through the rotor disc, with the air moving from below and in front of the rotor to above and behind it. The gyroplane requires some propulsive force to maintain sufficient speed to sustain autorotation and hold altitude. In the Cierva and Pitcairn Autogiros, an engine driving a tractor propeller supplied the necessary force. If the pilot reduced throttle while flying, the rotors would begin to slow and the autogiro would descend. The increased airflow of the descent allowed the rotors to continue in autorotation and maintain the blades in an unstalled condition - even without the forward pull of the propeller. Although the pilot still had to keep some forward motion for a landing flare-out, and to maintain airflow over the control surfaces, it allowed for unpowered and near vertical descents ending in a very short landing rollout. This was an excellent safety feature in case of engine failure. Nonetheless, until the advent of direct control gyroplanes, the diminished control effectiveness in slow speed flight required a highly experienced Autogiro pilot to perform minimal rollout landings.

Most of the early gyroplanes were nearly identical to single-engine low-wing monoplanes, with the exception of the rotor mounted on a pylon in front of the cockpit that provided the primary source of lift during slow-speed flight. They employed standard airplane-type control surfaces (elevator, aileron, and rudder) and fixed pitch rotor blades. The stubby monoplane wing did not serve primarily for the generation of lift. Rather, it was a convenient means of mounting the ailerons and providing stability. It also had the unintended benefit of making the aircraft appear more conventional to skeptical airplane operators who were doubtful about flying without fixed wings.

Cierva constructed his first Autogiro, the coaxial rotor C.1, in 1920. As the rotors on the C.1 autorotated at different speeds, rendering the aircraft incapable of controlled flight, he decided to switch to a single rotor design. However, the abortive first flight of the new aircraft revealed a problem that he had not considered. As the Autogiro began to gain speed during its takeoff roll, the rotor blade that was turning towards the front of the aircraft received the benefit of additional airspeed because of the forward motion of the Autogiro. However, the blade retreating towards the rear of the autogiro suffered a loss in its airspeed relative to the oncoming air for the same reason. The net effect was a difference in airspeeds of the two blades that naturally caused dissymmetry of lift between the two sides of the rotor disc (as lift is a function of airspeed). In turn, this resulted in the Autogiro to rolling into the retreating blade side. A subsequent Cierva Autogiro also suffered the same problem and failed to take off successfully.

In 1922, Cierva conceived an inspired solution to his problem. By incorporating a hinge that allowed each blade to "flap" independently at its root, he developed a rotor that equalized lift amongst all of the blades, regardless of whether the Autogiro was flying fast or slow. When the advancing blade generated additional lift because of its higher velocity, the flapping hinge allowed it to rise, which effectively reduced the angle of attack of the blade, thus reducing its lift. On the other side of the rotor, the flapping hinge allow the retreating blade to descend with its reduced lift, which effectively increased its angle of attack, thus generating more lift. This breakthrough was not only an essential component for the Autogiro - it was also necessary for the development of the practical helicopter.

By the late 1920s, Cierva was close to achieving production of the Autogiro. Harold Pitcairn had been fascinated with the possibilities of rotary-wing flight since his youth and had avidly followed Cierva's progress. He had already established himself as a successful manufacturer of rugged airmail aircraft, such as the PA-5 Mailwing (see NASM collection), and as owner of an airmail service that would eventually become Eastern Airlines. Still unable to shake the desire to experiment with helicopters, which had little success up to that time, Pitcairn made two trips abroad to evaluate the licensing the Cierva technology as the basis for his own line of helicopters. By 1928, Pitcairn had decided to risk everything, phase out his fixed-wing production and airmail operations, and produce license-built versions of Cierva Autogiros. He returned to Cierva's facility in England and bought a C.8 equipped with a Wright Whirlwind J-5, designated C.8W (see NASM collection), and had it shipped to his Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania airfield. On December 18, 1928, one day after the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Wright brothers' first powered flight, the C.8W became the first successful rotary-wing aircraft to fly in America.

Pitcairn's first step in building his own Autogiros was to acquire the American patent rights to Cierva's innovations and to manage and license them under the direction of the Pitcairn-Cierva Autogiro Company of America. This enterprise, later renamed the Autogiro Company of America, would remain separate from the production side of Pitcairn Aircraft, which would become the Pitcairn Autogiro Company, Inc. in 1933. Cierva, when he had sold the patent rights to Pitcairn, had yet to place any aircraft into production, and was naturally elated at the potential American market for his products.

Pitcairn began flying the C.8W around the Northeast and successfully generated a wave of enthusiasm for the aircraft. Meanwhile, his senior engineer, Agnew Larsen, was hard at work evaluating improvements for Pitcairn's own line of Autogiros, designated the PCA-1 (Pitcairn-Cierva Autogiro). In July 1929, Larsen was ready to begin construction on the first three prototypes.

Originally, Pitcairn and Larsen had intended to use the rugged Pitcairn PA-5 Mailwing (see NASM collection) for the tandem open cockpit fuselage and then mate it with Cierva's latest rotor design. However, the biplane fuselage structure clearly carried weight in places that were not necessary for the monoplane, and Larsen designed a new fuselage that was similar in form to the PA-5's, but differed substantially in the structural details. The front cockpit contained room enough to seat two adult passengers side-by-side, while the pilot occupied the rear cockpit.

One area that required special attention was the landing gear that needed to take the punishment of hard landings and the heavy side loads imposed by near-vertical, minimal rollout landings. Larsen thus settled on a wide-track conventional configuration with high-travel struts. This arrangement would also help to eliminate the ground resonance problems encountered by some of the late Autogiros.

The PCA-1 was a larger, more rugged aircraft than the earlier Cierva designs with a more powerful engine, though its gross weight was similar. The welded square steel tube fuselage that Pitcairn perfected on his Mailwings undoubtedly accounts for much of this accomplishment. The design of the rotorhead resulted in further weight savings, though the RB-55 rotor blades came directly from Cierva and were the same ones used on the C.19, his first production model and consisted of two layers of mahogany. The rotorhead attached to the fuselage with a four-strut pylon, centered over the front cockpit windscreen.

Many Autogiro and helicopter designs utilized fully-articulated rotorheads that incorporated a lead-lag or drag hinge that allowed the blades to pivot slightly fore and aft during rotation to relieve stresses. The PCA-1 and concurrent Cierva designs employed rudimentary drag hinge designs that, in combination with clunky, dynamically unbalanced rotor blades, led to excessive structural loadings in the rotor. The variations in centrifugal forces had to be borne by the blades themselves, which would have resulted in frequent structural failures had an external bracing system not been adopted. Rubber shock-cord bracing wires connected each of the blades and attached to a point almost halfway out along their length. Additional bracing wires, running from a mast on top of the rotorhead, acted as stops to keep the blades from drooping too low and striking the fuselage. As blade and drag hinge design improved in the latter part of the 1930s, along with Pitcairn's discovery of hydraulic dampers, Autogiro manufacturers dispensed with external bracing.

Pitcairn had hoped to enter the PCA-1 in the National Air Tour and the Guggenheim Safe Aircraft Competition, both showcases of the latest advances in light aircraft design, but the Autogiro was not ready for its first flight until October 1929 - too late for entry. Amazingly, Cierva himself performed the first flight of the PCA-1. However, he was only able to fly the aircraft for less than a week before he suffered a substantial crash. A second setback followed, when a devastating fire in the Pitcairn factory destroyed the airframe. Fortunately, the second of the PCA-1 airframes, designated PCA-1A, was nearly ready for flight and indeed took to the air with Cierva at the controls less than a month after the first PCA-1. Cierva had brought a C.19 prototype with him to the United States and used it to drum up enthusiasm for Pitcairn's forthcoming products. The C.19 was similar to the PCA-1 in design, but smaller and considerably lighter.

The PCA-1A was cosmetically similar to its forerunner, but contained some notable structural differences. It was considerably lighter, as duralumin tubing replaced the heavier steel construction and fabric covered the wings instead of plywood. The landing gear underwent further refinement and employed larger "balloon" tires to further ease the jolt received when performing minimum ground-roll landings.

The PCA-1 and PCA-1A incorporated an unusual "box" tail design that deflected propwash into the aft section of the rotor disc to bring the rotor rpm up without the need for excessive high-speed taxiing by bringing the blades into autorotation before takeoff. After Pitcairn realized that the solution to the rotor spin-up problem was a power-takeoff controlled by a clutch, he modified the PCA-1A to incorporate a much lighter tail structure with a single vertical stabilizer to replace the original design.

The PCA-1A could carry a respectable payload of 318 kg (700 lb). Its maximum speed was a relatively slow 169 kph (105 mph), but it could maintain altitude at an airspeed of only 32 kph (20 mph). The third of the Pitcairn prototypes, the PCA-1B, was ready for flight a month after the PCA-1A. It was even more advanced than the PCA-1A and illustrated the rapid pace of innovation at Pitcairn's facility, which, in addition to its own talent, benefited considerably from the close oversight of Cierva who observed the experimentation with enthusiasm. The PCA-1B incorporated the revised tail design from the outset. The close association between Cierva and his licensee paid significant dividends for both parties, as their collaboration increased the pace of Autogiro development in both countries. Cierva's C.19 incorporated many of the innovations pioneered on the PCA-1 and entered production concurrently with Pitcairn's initial models.

The PCA-1A and its surviving sibling, rapidly fulfilled their mission and confirmed that the Pitcairn modifications to the Cierva design were sound. Pitcairn began to gear up for production of the PCA-2 - the first Autogiro sold commercially in the Western Hemisphere. In 1930, the National Aeronautic Association awarded Pitcairn the prestigious Collier Trophy because of his pioneering flights in the C.8W and the successful Americanization of the Autogiro in the form of the PCA-1.

The PCA-2 would prove to be a popular aircraft in spite of the fact that the Great Depression was just reaching its stride. While conventional barnstorming had lost its popularity, air races and airshows remained significant draws for a population desperate for distraction and the uniqueness of the Autogiro guaranteed that it would draw crowds wherever it appeared. While the $15,000 price tag was an enormous sum in those troubled times, Pitcairn still sold twenty-one PCA-2s in a two-year period. Many of the operators were pilots who financed their purchase by selling advertising space to corporate sponsors looking for new ways to advertise their products.

Unfortunately, the appeal of the Autogiro as a novelty act did not extend far into the commercial or general aviation fields. While Pitcairn marketed the Autogiro as the ideal personal vehicle for the wealthy, very few went for this purpose. Outside of advertising and exhibitions, some Autogiros performed limited crop-dusting and airmail duties. However, the short takeoff and landing abilities of the type did not compensate for its slower speeds, more limited payloads, and higher acquisition and operating costs relative to conventional aircraft. Despite new innovations, civil sales of the Autogiro had fallen off steeply by the beginning of World War Two. During the war, the introduction of helicopters with true vertical takeoff and landing capabilities and the ability to hover rendered the Autogiro redundant and obsolete. However, the increasing complexity and cost of true helicopters caused a resurgence in gyroplane research in the latter part of the twentieth century.

Pitcairn would die an embittered man, as the patent rights he had owned were usurped by a number of helicopter manufacturers, who, with the exception of Sikorsky, did not pay him any royalties. The helicopter companies had gotten away with this during World War Two because the U.S. Army Air Force had convinced Congress that unless they suspended patent issues relating to helicopter technology, the wartime development of the helicopter would be severely handicapped. After the war, Pitcairn tried to recover his royalties, but the government refused to get involved. Pitcairn filed suit, but the proceedings would came to a conclusion in his favor almost three decades later and several years after his death.

For a brief period, the PCA-1A and PCA-1B continued to serve with Pitcairn as trainers for purchasers of PCA-2s. Pitcairn then donated the PCA-1A to the Franklin institute. In 1955, the Smithsonian Institution acquired the aircraft. In 1997, the National Air and Space Museum loaned the aircraft to Harold Pitcairn's son, Stephen, who fully restored the aircraft to its initial configuration, including the box deflector-tail. In 2000, the aircraft went on temporary display at the American Helicopter Museum in West Chester, Pennsylvania, not far from its original testing ground.

Rotor Diameter:13.11 m (43 ft)

Wingspan:10.05 m (33 ft)

Length:6.60 m (21 ft 8 in)

Height:3.89 m (12 ft 9 in)

Weight:Empty, 998 kg (2,200 lb)

Gross, 1,317 kg (2,900 lb)

Engine, Initial Configuration:Wright R-760-E Whirlwind J-6-7, 225 hp

Engine, Final Configuration:Wright R-975-EG Whirlwind J-6-9, 300 hp

Crew:1 pilot, 2 passengers

References and Further Reading:

Brooks, Peter W. Cierva Autogiros: The Development of Rotary-Wing Flight.

Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1988.

Smith, Frank Kingston. Legacy of Wings: The Harold F. Pitcairn Story. Lafayette Hill,

Pa: T.D. Associates, 1981.

Townson, George. Autogiro: The Story of "the Windmill Plane." Destin, Fl: Aviation

Heritage, Inc., 1985.

Cierva C.8W curatorial file, Aeronautics Division, National Air and Space Museum

R. Connor

Apollo 16-EVA II

National Air and Space Museum
Apollo 16-EVA II, 22 April 1972. A page from a spiral-bound sketchbook. The many screens of the Network Operations Control Center are depicted against a black background and the blue-green wall with yellow lights above. The first screen in the top left is a green map of the world with a vertical row of four clock faces on each side and a heading of "Goddard Network" above. To the right is an angled rectangular screen with four columns of bright horizontal bars, perhaps suggesting textual data. On the lower left is a screen showing an astronaut with his gold-visor helmet. In the center is a green map of the moon. On the right is a rectangular area with a graph, round insignia, and several brightly colored blocks. The text in the lower left corner reads: "Apollo 16 - EVA II - Goddard Spaceflight Center Display - 22 April 72." The text in the lower right corner reads: "The spectacular view of the Network Operations Control Center display…from the visitors viewing area."

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

Why the World Needs Bloodsucking Creatures

Smithsonian Magazine

In a sprawling gallery of the Royal Ontario Museum, curators and technicians crowded around two large coolers that had recently arrived at the Toronto institution. Wriggling inside the containers were live sea lampreys, eel-like creatures that feed by clamping onto the bodies of other fish, puncturing through their skin with tooth-lined tongues, and sucking out their victims’ blood and bodily fluids. Staff members, their hands protected with gloves, carefully lifted one of the lampreys and plopped it into a tall tank. It slithered through the water, tapping on the glass walls with its gaping mouth, rings of fearsome teeth on full view.

Having explored its new environment, the lamprey settled onto the pebbles at the bottom of the tank. It will remain on display until March as part of a new exhibition exploring the oft-reviled critters that bite, pierce, scrape and saw their way through flesh to access their favorite food source: blood.

The exhibition, called “Bloodsuckers,” includes displays of other live animals—mosquitoes, ticks and leeches—interspersed throughout the gallery. And dozens of preserved specimens, arrayed down a long, curving wall, offer a glimpse into the diverse world of the roughly 30,000 species of bloodthirsty organisms across the globe. Among these critters are vampire moths, which can pierce the thick skins of buffalo and elephants. Vampire snails target sick and dying fish, making for easier prey. The oxpecker birds of Africa pluck ticks and other insects off large mammals—and then slurp blood from their hosts’ sores.

Sebastian Kvist, curator of invertebrates at the Royal Ontario Museum and co-curator of the exhibition, knows that these animals are likely to make some visitors shudder. But to him, blood-feeders are the loveliest of organisms, the result of a refined evolutionary process. Leeches are a particular favorite of Kvist’s, and his research focuses on the evolution of blood-feeding behavior, or hematophagy, in these predatory worms. Sometimes he even affectionately lets the leeches in his lab gorge themselves on his blood.

“When you have live animals in your care, they demand some respect,” he says. “I think that it is giving back to the leech what we're getting from them to donate our warm blood.”

Leeches are still used today in a wide variety of medical procedures, from alternative therapies to FDA-sanctioned surgical uses. (Robertus Pudyanto vi Getty Images)

“Bloodsuckers” opens in a corridor bathed in red light, where an installation featuring three strands of red blood cells dangles from the ceiling. Blood is a hugely abundant food source, so it makes sense that wherever vertebrates exist, animals would arise to steal their life-sustaining fluids. Blood-feeding likely evolved repeatedly over the course of our planet’s history—“perhaps as many as 100 times,” according to Kvist. Bloodsucking creatures have no common ancestor, as the behavior has cropped up independently in birds, bats, insects, fish and other animal groups—a testament to its evolutionary value.

“I can think of no other system that’s [so] intricate that has evolved separately,” Kvist says. “And it makes blood-feeding as a behavior even more beautiful.”

Subsisting on a blood-heavy diet is tricky, however, and relatively few creatures have managed to retain this ability over time. “Thirty thousand [bloodsuckers] out of the roughly 1.5 or 1.6 million species [of animals] that have been described is a very, very small number,” Kvist says. “But it turns out that being able to feed on blood puts tremendous strain on your physiology, on your morphology, and on your behavior.”

For one, blood lacks B vitamins, which all animals require to convert food into energy. Many bloodsuckers thus host microscopic bacteria inside their bodies to provide these essential nutrients. Because blood is so iron-rich, it’s toxic to most animals in large amounts, but habitual blood-feeders have evolved to break it down.

Display of an oxpecker, a bird that feeds on the blood of large mammals. (Jesse Milns, Courtesy of the Royal Ontario Museum)

Getting to the blood of a living creature is no mean feat either. Blood-feeding organisms have different ways of accessing their preferred snack. Mosquitoes, for instance, pierce the skin with their long, thin mouthparts, while certain biting flies boast serrated jaws that slash through flesh. But all of these methods risk being met with a deft swat from the host. To counteract this problem, some blood-feeders, like leeches, have mild anesthetics in their saliva, which help them go unnoticed as they feed. Certain creatures like vampire bats, lampreys and leeches also produce anticoagulants to keep their victims’ blood flowing, sometimes even after they’re done eating.

“A leech feeds five times its body weight in blood, up to ten times sometimes,” Kvist says. “If that blood congealed or clotted inside its body, then the leech would fall to the bottom [of the water] like a brick.”

Kvist and Doug Currie, the Royal Ontario Museum’s senior curator of entomology and co-curator of the exhibition, hope museum visitors gain a newfound appreciation for the elegance of bloodsucking organisms. Humans share a long and complicated relationship with blood-feeders. Leeches, for instance, were once seen as a life-saving force, and are in fact still used by medical experts today after certain types of surgery that overfull parts of the body with blood. But at the same time, we are unnerved by creatures that steal blood—a wariness that has persisted for centuries, as suggested by the fearsome bloodsuckers that populate folklore traditions around the world.

A natural history and culture institution, the Royal Ontario Museum also explores how blood-feeding, a trait that exists in nature, has crept into the human imagination and morphed into something fantastical. Monsters abound within the gallery. There are models of the chupacabra, a beast rumored to drain livestock of their blood, and the yara-ma-yha-who, which originated in the oral traditions of Australia and boasts blood suckers on its fingers and toes.

These creatures do not directly resemble any real blood-feeding animal. Instead, they speak to our “innate fear of something taking our life force,” says Courtney Murfin, the interpretive planner who worked with curators to craft the exhibition’s narrative.

Dracula, arguably the most famous of all the fictional bloodsuckers, may have a more tangible connection to the natural world. Legends of vampires predate Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel—visitors can see a first edition copy of the book at the exhibition—but the notion that these undead beings could transform into bats originated with Dracula. Vampire bats, which live in Mexico and Central and South America, feed on the blood of mammals and birds. They were first described in 1810 and documented by Charles Darwin in 1839. The animals may have influenced Stoker’s supernatural count.

Depictions of vampires in today’s popular culture run the gamut from cool to sexy to goofy. We can have fun with them now, Murfin says, because we know they aren’t real. But when vampire lore arose in eastern Europe in the early 1700s, the beasts were a source of true terror. Confusion about normal traits observed in decomposing bodies, like swollen stomachs and blood in the mouth, led to the belief that corpses could rise from their graves to feast on the blood of the living.

“They started digging up graves and staking the people to the ground … so they couldn't stand up at night,” Kvist says.

Fears about losing their blood to vampires did not, however, dampen Europeans’ enthusiasm for bloodletting, an age-old medical practice that sometimes involved applying leeches to the skin. The treatment can be traced back to the ancient world, where it arose from the belief that draining blood helped rebalance the body’s humors: blood, phlegm, yellow bile and black bile. Bloodletting reached its peak in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, when a “leech mania” swept across Europe and America. Pharmacies stored the critters in ornate jars—one is on display at the museum—and Hirudo medicinalis, or the European medicinal leech, was harvested to the brink of extinction.

A 19th century “leech jar,” used to hold and display leeches in pharmacy windows. (Jesse Milns, Courtesy of the Royal Ontario Museum)

Bloodletters also had other ways of getting the job done. One corner of the exhibition is packed with a grisly assortment of artificial bloodletting tools: scarificators, which, with the push of a lever, released multiple blades for opening up the skin; glass cups that were heated and suctioned onto the skin, drawing blood to the surface; smelling salts, in case the procedure proved a bit too overwhelming for the patient.

While medical professionals no longer believe that leeching can cure everything from skin diseases to dental woes, leeches are still valued in medicine today. Hirudin, the anticoagulant in leech saliva, is unrivalled in its strength, according to Kvist. It’s synthesized in labs and given to patients in pills and topological creams to treat deep vein thrombosis and prevent strokes. Leeches themselves make appearances in hospitals. They’re helpful to doctors who perform skin grafts or reattachments of fingers, toes and other extremities. Newly stitched arteries heal more quickly than veins, so blood that is being pumped into the reattached area doesn’t flow back into the body, which can in turn prevent healing.

“Stick a leech on, and it will relieve that congestion of the veins,” says Kvist, who also studies the evolution of anticoagulants in leeches.

Earlier this year, Kvist received a call from Parks Canada asking for help with an unusual conundrum. A man had been apprehended at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport with nearly 4,800 live leeches packed into his carry-on luggage, and officials needed help identifying the critters. Kvist took a look at some of the leeches, which appeared to have been smuggled from Russia, and pinpointed them as Hirudo verbana. Because they are threatened by over-harvesting, this species is listed by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna, meaning it cannot be transported without a permit. Just what the man was doing with the bloodsuckers is unclear, but Kvist says he claimed to sell them for “New Age medicinal purposes.”

“There is a larger-than-we-think underground network of people that use leeches to treat a variety of ailments,” Kvist says. The Royal Ontario Museum took in around 300 of the contraband critters, and a few dozen are presently lounging in a display tank at “Bloodsuckers.”

While leeches have long been valued for their healing properties—scientifically valid or otherwise—some bloodsuckers are better known for their ability to transmit serious illnesses. Certain species of mosquito, for instance, spread West Nile, Zika and malaria. Ticks transmit Lyme disease. The exhibition does not shy away from exploring the dangers associated with blood-feeders, and it offers advice on how to protect yourself from infection.

A visitor views a display of preserved blood-sucking specimens. (Jesse Milns, Courtesy of the Royal Ontario Museum)

“Some fears are real,” Kvist says. “Disease, unfortunately, is a necessary consequence of blood-feeding.”

Most blood-feeding animals, though, do not pose a serious threat to humans. In fact, bloodsuckers are vital to the health of our planet. Mosquitoes are an important food source for birds. Fish eat leeches. Even sea lampreys, which are invasive to the Great Lakes, can bring essential nutrients to the aquatic habitats where they spawn. And like all species, blood-feeders contribute to the Earth’s biodiversity—a richness of life that is fast declining due to factors like pollution, climate change and habitat degradation.

Many, many animal groups need to be part of conversations regarding biodiversity, Kvist says, but he and his colleagues opted to spotlight the bloodthirsty ones. The museum hopes to help visitors feel more comfortable living alongside these animals—even if they aren’t willing to volunteer an arm for a leech’s next meal.

Complex 19 Gemini Launch Pad 13

National Air and Space Museum
Complex 19 Gemini Launch Pad, 13 April 1972. Page from a bound sketchbook. The sketch is a jumble of pipes and hardware that fill the page. Three wheels are identifiable near the top center, and another at the center of the scene. Stencil-like labeling in the center reads "SV 56" and another label lower in the center reads "36 INCH".

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

Press Site

National Air and Space Museum
Press Site, April 16, 1972. Page from a bound sketchbook. Depicts a cameraman on a platform with a large CBS camera. Other press people and cameras are on the ground below the platform. The scene is dominated by the linear structure of the platform supports and the camera tripods. Text in the upper right hand corner reads: "-2:15:47 and counting. Press Site, April 16, 1972, Alan E. Cober. As I am drawing this the astronauts drove by in a van on the way to the launch site. All the cameramen are focused on them. Well a few are, the rest of the cameramen are hiding from the sun under the press stand. Paul Calle is yelling, "Alan, there go the astronauts." Answer - "very nice."

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
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