We collect objects of particular significance to the history of aviation and spaceflight. The collection, preservation, and interpretation of these objects is one of the primary ways we achieve our mission.
It is important to understand what we mean when we speak about the “collection”. The Museum’s collection generally refers to everything the Museum holds in trust, including objects, artwork, archival photographs, documents, and more. A collection of objects can refer to a small subset of objects within the entire collection, typically organized by a topic, a program, or where the collection originated.
The Yankee Air Museum’s exhibitions cover global conflicts from World War One to the present through displays that offer visitors an opportunity to experience those conflicts through the men and woman who lived it. Many items in the collection – including but not limited to uniforms, weaponry, aircraft, medals, letters, artwork, photographs, and other mementos – are currently on exhibit in the Museum. The majority of the collection are kept safely in storage for research and future exhibitions, or are being restored to their original condition. The Museum also has a large collection of oral histories conducted with veterans of all branches and the civilians who helped at the home front.
The Yankee Air Museum has collected unique and fascinating artifacts that pertained to aviation history and the military. Many items tell the heroic tales of past battles as well as engineering breakthroughs that paralleled with our mission statement. From the 1980s to the early 2000s, Museum staff placed new emphasis on items long thought by experts to be worth collecting. During this time, the museum acquired the iconic, static B-52 Stratofortress, our flyable C-47 Douglas Skytrain, B-25 Mitchel, and the B-17 Flying Fortress where it was our mission to be able to have visitors fly in these historic aircraft.
After the devastating fire in 2004, the Museum was eager to get back on its feet. A new location was found and Museum staff began rebuilding the collection. By 2010, many people recognized that the museum’s collections were unique and quickly re-growing. But they had also become unfocused and largely inaccessible to both museum staff and the public. With the image of the soon-to-be National Museum of Aviation and Technology in mind, the Museum began to align with national museum standards. This new era is marked by a flurry of activity to focus and get a handle on the collections—including an updated formal Collections Policy, curator-led exhibit and collection plans, and the introduction of a digitized collection. Items now being collected will allow us to be in sync with the Collections Policy and will also allow us to grow as we become a National Museum.
The Future Is Looking Bright
In 2012, we began a campaign to save the original Willow Run Bomber Plant to be the new home of the Museum. The National Museum of Aviation and Technology at Historic Willow Run will become the Museum’s new name, when the Yankee Air Museum moves into the building. There, in the roughly 144,000 square feet that will be renovated, will house our growing collection of more than 5,000 artifacts. We will also be able to house our collection of static aircraft and The David and Andrea Robertson Education Center inside. The new location of the museum will allow for the Yankee Air Museum to bring the excitement of the flyable aircraft, exhibits, restoration and educational programs back to a single site. In early 2016, we moved the first three aircraft into the Bomber Plant. Various pieces of the Museum will continue to move into the Bomber Plant as it is undergoing renovation.
The new Museum will:
- Maintain the Yankee Air Museum’s commitment to “hands on” exhibits and a museum floor that is (generally) free of ropes or other barriers separating visitors from the exhibits.
- Collect, restore, and preserve artifacts purposefully to help tell specific stories and/or illustrate science/engineering principles as well as oral histories from participants in events falling within the museum’s storyline.
- Focus on many of the technological, manufacturing, and business visionaries who played key roles in the development of aviation as a means of humanizing the stories presented.
- Weave STEM learning opportunities and accounts of American Culture into the various exhibits.
The purposes of the Museum are to:
- Preserve the American and regional aviation heritage and tell its stories.
- Preserve part of the Willow Run Bomber Plant for future generations; offer a historical interpretation of the structure and site that puts the extraordinary Willow Run story into its larger economic, social, and cultural history context.
- Create and present exciting, engaging, family-friendly exhibits and programs for community, corporate, and family events.