Improving the Rocket Collection

Along with all the model airplanes and flying equipment and memorabilia in the collection, the museum also has a small collection of model rockets.  When these rockets were received in the mid-1990s little information was documented on their donors and history.

Multiple rockets are laid out on crowded, padded shelves.
The National Model Aviation Museum’s rockets in storage before work began into their documentation and history.

A chance discussion with District IV VP Jay Marsh clued Museum Collections Manager Maria VanVreede in to some of the history of the rockets and propelled her to start the necessary work.  Jay had donated two of the rockets, a scale version of the Space Shuttle Challenger that was built as a memorial to the lost crew, and an X-15.  Records for these rockets were created in the museum’s collections database and the paper files were updated with information provided by Jay.

Also using Jay’s information, Maria was able to match several undocumented rockets on the shelves to documented donations in the files.  This is always an exciting moment for Maria, as it means there is one more artifact with its history connected to it once again.

An open file shows neatly arranged documents and photographs, while an inset picture shows an ID number written on a rocket.
Research into the museum’s records helped connect several of the rockets to their stories. To keep this information safe and available, the paper documentation was organized and the artifact’s identification number was marked on the rocket.

The process of connecting artifacts back to their rockets involves research into the paper and digital files and close inspection of the artifacts.  Once everything was confirmed, the first thing Maria did was write the identification number assigned to the donation on the rocket in order to make sure that it won’t be unidentified again.  Next, Maria organized the paper and photographic documentation in the files and then entered a complete description, search terms and other notes into the database.

Model rockets are placed on acid-free foam and padding material and then tied into a tray to prevent rolling.
To properly preserve the model rockets, they were stored on acid-free cardboard trays. Inert padding material supports the rockets within the trays.

Finally, as she’s been working with the rockets, Maria has been improving their storage situation, using acid-free cardboard, batting and inert foam.  Placing the artifacts in trays not only helps condense them so there’s more space on the shelf, but it supports them better by taking stress off the fins and nose.

Maria inspects a missing fin on one of the model rockets in the collection.
Maria is continuing to work researching and cataloging the model rockets in the collection.

Work on researching and cataloging the rockets is continuing, and it looks like three more rockets will be identified and properly cataloged.  The remaining rockets in the collection will be cataloged under a number indicated “found in collection,” which allows them to be entered into the database, searched and referenced, but indicates further work needs to be done as information becomes available to document their history.

The rocket's storage shelf is now about 1/2 empty since the rockets have been properly stored in acid-free trays.
There’s a lot more room on the storage shelves when the artifacts are properly protected in the trays.

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