Smithsonian Air and Space Museum to get radical ‘reimagining’


WASHINGTON — The Smithsonian is going above and beyond in its plans for renovations to the National Air and Space Museum.

All 23 galleries are being updated or redone, and while many exhibits will get a refresher and stay on-theme, some will be completely replaced and made more high-tech. The exterior of the building is also getting a face-lift.

According to Peter Jakab, chief curator for the National Air and Space Museum, the renovations are a long-time coming.

“Well, the museum is … 41 years old now and many of the systems have outlived their lifespan and (the Museum) in the Smithsonian complex was due for its turn, so to speak, in major repairs,” Jakab told WTOP. “But in assessing those, it was determined that the repairs required were more extensive.”

The key concern for the building is the failing stone exterior, which has to be replaced.

“So that major aspect of the revitalization has also touched on many other aspects. Including the need to touch all of the exhibition spaces, so that requirement is then turned into an opportunity to reimagine and redo all of the 23 exhibition spaces with new presentations or updated presentations of current subject matter,” Jakab said.

Each of the galleries will include presentation areas where experts and visitors can interact through demonstrations and discussions, which will also be shared through webcasts.

Take a look at these artist’s renderings for a glimpse at what the renovations might look like:

"Exploring the Planets" is part of the Smithsonian's "Reimagining" of the Air and Space Museum. (Copyright: Smithsonian Institution)
“Exploring the Planets” is part of the Smithsonian’s “Reimagining” of the Air and Space Museum. (Copyright: Smithsonian Institution) (Copyright: Smithsonian Institution)
The "Destination Moon" exhibit. (Copyright: Smithsonian Institution)
The “Destination Moon” exhibit. (Copyright: Smithsonian Institution) (Copyright: Smithsonian Institution)
The "One World Connected" exhibit. (Copyright: Smithsonian Institution)
The “One World Connected” exhibit. (Copyright: Smithsonian Institution) (Copyright: Smithsonian Institution)
Visitors will see the "Early Flight" exhibit. (Copyright: Smithsonian Institution)
Visitors will see the “Early Flight” exhibit. (Copyright: Smithsonian Institution) (Copyright: Smithsonian Institution)
There's also the "Reinventing Flight" exhibit. (Copyright: Smithsonian Institution)
There’s also the “Reinventing Flight” exhibit. (Copyright: Smithsonian Institution) (Copyright: Smithsonian Institution)
The "We All Fly" exhibit. (Copyright: Smithsonian Institution)
The “We All Fly” exhibit. (Copyright: Smithsonian Institution) (Copyright: Smithsonian Institution)
America is a "Nation of Speed." (Copyright: Smithsonian Institution)
America is a “Nation of Speed.” (Copyright: Smithsonian Institution) (Copyright: Smithsonian Institution)
"The Wright Brothers" exhibit. (Copyright: Smithsonian Institution)
“The Wright Brothers” exhibit. (Copyright: Smithsonian Institution) (Copyright: Smithsonian Institution)
"America by Air." (Copyright: Smithsonian Institution)
“America by Air.” (Copyright: Smithsonian Institution) (Copyright: Smithsonian Institution)
How the National Mall could look in the future. (Copyright: Smithsonian Institution)
How the National Mall could look in the future. (Copyright: Smithsonian Institution) (Copyright: Smithsonian Institution)
A new entrance is envisioned. (Copyright: Smithsonian Institution)
A new entrance is envisioned. (Copyright: Smithsonian Institution) (Copyright: Smithsonian Institution)
(1/11)
"Exploring the Planets" is part of the Smithsonian's "Reimagining" of the Air and Space Museum. (Copyright: Smithsonian Institution)
The "Destination Moon" exhibit. (Copyright: Smithsonian Institution)
The "One World Connected" exhibit. (Copyright: Smithsonian Institution)
Visitors will see the "Early Flight" exhibit. (Copyright: Smithsonian Institution)
There's also the "Reinventing Flight" exhibit. (Copyright: Smithsonian Institution)
The "We All Fly" exhibit. (Copyright: Smithsonian Institution)
America is a "Nation of Speed." (Copyright: Smithsonian Institution)
"The Wright Brothers" exhibit. (Copyright: Smithsonian Institution)
"America by Air." (Copyright: Smithsonian Institution)
How the National Mall could look in the future. (Copyright: Smithsonian Institution)
A new entrance is envisioned. (Copyright: Smithsonian Institution)

The budget for revitalization and repairs is $650 million, and Jakab believes the federal funds will be there for the life of the endeavor.

He puts the revamp of the exhibits and the public spaces at $250 million, for which private funds will be raised.

Those dollar figures make this the most expensive Capital project ever for the Smithsonian.

Visitors will start seeing changes during summer 2018, though there is some evidence of work being done already in the form of covered walkways and scaffolding around the building to protect people from the stone that’s in disrepair, Jakab says.

The new spaces will start to open in 2021 as part of a seven-year plan.

Perhaps most importantly for visitors, many exhibits will stay open throughout project’s life span.

More information is available at the Air and Space website.


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