April 26th, 2013
12:42 PM ET

Air and Space museum's 'space' problem

By Libby Lewis, CNN

Editor's Note: Listen to the full story in our player above, and join the conversation in our comments section below.

(CNN) - The Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum has, well, a space issue.

It boils down to having too much stuff, and not enough space. The difference is – when you or I have too much stuff, we can put it in the attic, give it away – or throw it away.

The Smithsonian’s extra stuff might be a B-17 bomber. A cargo plane. Or a bunch of space suits. That’s because the Air and Space Museum is the attic for America’s space endeavors.

Peter Jakab is associate director of collections and curatorial affairs for the Museum. He says, after the space shuttle program ended in 2011, “NASA just sort of gave us…thousands of objects – everything from space suits to personal equipment to checklists to watches.”

Over time, the museum’s curators determine what’s critical to its collections, and what can go. But they are curators – not Craigslist. So they can only go to museums or other institutions that can take care of the bomber, or the helicopter – or the space suit.

You can see the current list the current list on the Air and Space Museum’s website.

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soundoff (12 Responses)
  1. John Benton

    NASM already lends plenty of artifacts out all over the country. Some of the loans are long term, some are defined. In all cases, the institution the item is loaned to has to satisfy NASM (Smithsonian) concerns about proper care and security of the artifact before it can be loaned. And as a matter of business, the costs of shipping to and from NASM are borne by the museum the item is being lent to. Only when it's a choice of the artifact being lost because the museum it was lent to went defunct and collapsed, will the Smithsonian step in and do what has to be done to get the item returned safely. All that said, I can't imagine the Smithsonian ever having enough space to store or display EVERY artifact it owns. The Smithsonian itself is a national treasure, because of the size and diversity of its collections, AND the meticulous detail given to preserving those collections. There are other prestigious museums around the world who are equally meticulous in the attention to detail given to preservation and display, but their collections are generally much smaller and more focused on a particular area of our heritage. So the "space" problem is not surprising, and it is complex, more so than many people may realize.

    April 29, 2013 at 3:08 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Mike

    Space Bags...Too much stuff, not enough space.

    April 29, 2013 at 10:43 am | Report abuse |
  3. Galadour

    Oregon and other states have beautiful aerospace museums with plenty of room for growth.Why should the Smithsonian be limited by one location when it is about All of US treasures? I thinkink that the Smithsonian should work with museums around the country to create exhibition halls so that they can rotate inventory every two or three years and have more than enough room for all of our memorabilia. This makes Smithsonian accessible to more Americans, especially those who simply cannot afford to always travel to Washington.

    April 28, 2013 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse |
  4. bill

    At least they are not getting harassed by zoning to "get rid of that eyesore" . Sikorsky was one of the first words I learned as a child.

    April 27, 2013 at 3:53 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Constantine16621990

    I hope they get rid of those space suits before that B-17:/

    April 27, 2013 at 11:09 am | Report abuse |
    • Bart Gault

      Never get rid of the B17. It is one of the most important and sacred treasures we have. Because of that aircraft and the sacrifice the Greatest Generation made we are here today and we should never forget them always honor those amazing Heros.

      April 27, 2013 at 12:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bart Gault

      Never get rid of the B17. It is one of the most important and sacred treasures we have. Because of that aircraft and the sacrifice the Greatest Generation made, we are here today. We should never forget them and always honor those amazing Heros.

      April 27, 2013 at 12:48 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Ineedmyspace

    Why not give it to Kennedy Space Center.

    April 27, 2013 at 9:13 am | Report abuse |
    • NASM Fan

      The Kennedy Space Center is part of NASA. NASA gave a lot of items to the Smithsonian when the shuttle program ended. These items are causing the storage issue. The Smithsonian wouldn’t give them to the Kennedy Space Center because the items essentially came from them. The Smithsonian will display the best and most important pieces. Other items in Smithsonian NASM storage are being offered for display to museums around the country to reduce some of the overall storage issues.

      April 29, 2013 at 4:28 pm | Report abuse |
  7. ScottCA

    If they want to give me a few of their more valuable objects. I will be happy to take them off their hands and help them make space that way.

    April 26, 2013 at 10:01 pm | Report abuse |