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Air Museum Etiquette

Mon May 19, 2003 2:31 am

Hello folks,

No, this is not going to be one of my usual updates on the expansion at the Air Force Museum. It is going to be a discussion on the etiquette that visitors should have when visiting any Air Museum and why should good behavior be the norm. I realize that this will not be a pleasant subject for some of you, because behavior that you feel is perfectly reasonable will be railed at by myself.

An Air Museum's mission is like any other museum. A place to preserve and display artifacts for both casual and scholarly study, with our particular focus on the history of the air services associated with the Army until 1947 and from then on, the Air Force.

If you visit the National Air and Space Museum, a division of the Smithsonian Institute, you can see a great number of historic aircraft, but you cannot get close unless there is a special reason. Most visitors do not have special reasons.

At the Air Force Museum, access to the airplanes is almost unlimited and the collection is paying a price for this access. There are signs around the museum asking visitors not to touch and explaining the damage that will be caused by constant handling of the any of the exhibits. A large amount of our staff's efforts are expended in the repair of such damage, yet the damage continues. To be sure, to have a museum where all is sterile and inaccessible would defeat much of the purpose of these exhibitions and there are many things that are there for the touching and probing. This type of wear and tear is to be expected and should be tolerated by the staff. If a visitor has a question what they can or cannot do, a staff member or volunteer will be glad to provide an answer.

Yet people touch what they shouldn't, not only touch, they climb on, beat, try to force flight controls to move and props to spin, hang on fuel tanks, hang on pitot probes (a probe on the C-123B was the latest victim), hang on wings and stabilizers. They treat the museum as an amusement park and not of place of learning and not of place to respect what has been saved and restored and not a place to honor men and women who made a great sacrifice for their country.

Often, when a visitor is requested not to touch, the response is from an undisciplined child or adult who feel that they are exempt from any rules or restrictions.

Since this situation will either be allowed until the collection loses much of its historic and educational value or efforts are made to reduce these incidents. Remember the museum's annual visitation are now approaching 1.5 million annually, even a small percentage of visitors can cause significant damage in a very short period of time.

The museum is doing something to reduce these problems and that is to make to collection less accessable. As the reorganization and expansion progresses, more and more exhibits are hung for the ceiling, placed behind stanctions, and otherwise made inaccessible.

To keep this trend from continuing, each visitor must understand what is expected of them and knowledgeable people, like those of you who participate and visit this web site and others like it, have to be good examples for those who are ignorant of what their behavior should be and the importance of these artifacts.

Ladies and gentlemen, you help is needed by all Aviation Museums and not just the one I have the priviledge and pleasure to participate in.

How about it?

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Joined: Wed May 23, 2001 12:58 pm

RE: Air Museum Etiquette

Mon May 19, 2003 11:02 am

I second that post. These are the things I've dealt with.

1) A child throwing rocks at one of the aircraft while his parents watched. When I asked them to control the little brat (no I didn't use those words) they actually had the gall to say that it would not hurt the airplane and to mind my own business.

2) Signs posted all around our SR-71 saying "Do not Touch, fragile skin" and, the aircaft is surrounded by ropes with signs saying keep out. I've caught people inside the ropes, leaning on the aircraft and sitting on the gear.

3) I actually caught someone putting a sticker on the VC-118 one day. I Told him to spend his time taking the thing off and he said no.

In all of the above cases I escorted the offenders to the front door and told them they were welcome to never come back. All tried to get refunds and all failed.

Obey the signs, keep your hands off the aircraft and keep the children under control. You'll know when it's OK to touch, we'll show you.
The day you stop learning is the day you should die.
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Joined: Mon Apr 23, 2001 10:12 pm

RE: Air Museum Etiquette

Mon May 19, 2003 1:39 pm

Maybe the time for museums where the exhibits are displayed outside glass cases is at an end...

But aircraft museums have in part themselves to blame. Most if not all have several aircraft parked outside to draw crowds. Those aircraft are constantly exposed to the weather in all its varieties and doesn't seem to suffer to the uninformed (if you look closer you'll often see serious corrosion and other damage) who also don't know that those aircraft are usually specially treated.
Seeing that they think that aircraft are pretty much indestructible (plus what does it matter if one person touches it? Lots of people did so when it was in active service... (their thoughts, not mine)).
I wish I were flying
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Joined: Wed Jul 07, 1999 11:27 am

RE: Air Museum Etiquette

Mon May 19, 2003 5:11 pm

The lack of consideration in modern society is appalling
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Joined: Wed May 23, 2001 12:58 pm

RE: Air Museum Etiquette

Tue May 20, 2003 12:17 pm

It would be impssoible to keep a large collection of aircraft behind "glass." The Pima Air and Space Museum has over 260 aircraft on display and we truly want people to walk around and under them. We even want people to touch them to a point. All we ask is that our visitors touch them like a lover, not a mugger. The exceptions are well posted.

We volunteers can tell whether a person is touching with respect or not. If it's "not", you will feel very unwelcome very quickly. You may even find yourself, not that anyone on this site would qualify, prosecuted. We had one person who was caught inside an aircraft owned by the USAF who was charged in criminal court by the federal government. Sadly for him, there were items missing that he was ordered to pay for. I wonder if he's been able to pay the $30,000 yet?
The day you stop learning is the day you should die.
Posts: 201
Joined: Thu May 18, 2000 2:10 pm

RE: Air Museum Etiquette

Sat May 24, 2003 10:23 am

too bad our security forces are understaffed as it is, Id like to see the looks on peoples faces when a cop in bdu's tells them to get off the plane
Posts: 602
Joined: Thu Apr 24, 2003 10:00 am

RE: Air Museum Etiquette

Sat May 24, 2003 12:41 pm


Thank you so much for saying irresponsible children AND adults. As to be expected, the younger people in museums tend to be watched a little more than the adults do. I'm not complaining at all, because the fact that kids tend to be more irresponsible holds true most of the time. But, the last time I was at the SAC Museum here in Omaha, I saw a man actually go under the ropes and sit on the pitot tube(the tube coming off the nose, correct me if I'm wrong) of an SR-71. Thankfully, he was told to get off within seconds by security. It's been said more than once, but I'll say it again. These museums are no different than an art, science, or history museum. In many people's eyes a KC-97 is just another big piece of metal, no different than the airliners they fly today. But, to us(at least to me Smile) these planes are no different than the Mona Lisa.


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