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?