Sunday, November 11, 2012

Just One More, I Promise

After this, I'll give it a rest...

Saturday was Neil Armstrong Remembrance Day aboard the USS Hornet Museum. In addition to a full afternoon of programs, the event featured the reopening of the ship's Apollo Exhibit, documenting the Space Age and Hornet's service recovering Apollos 11 and 12. See the previous two posts to understand why I care.

I surprised my daughters, Laura (the museum collections manager) and Robin (Hornet volunteer and loyal assistant), by driving down for the big unveiling. The Apollo Exhibit was scheduled to open at 3 p.m. I showed up around 1 p.m. and poked my head in the door; they were startled and happy to see me for about 10 seconds and then put me to work. They still had a lot to do. We polished everything as best we could, grabbed a quick lunch on the historic carrier's Flight Deck while watching a series of impressive ceremonial flyovers by vintage aircraft, then ran back down for the ribbon-cutting.

Some of the ceremonies in honor of Neil Armstrong. The speaker is Apollo Flight Surgeon Dr. William Carpentier, who later did us the honor of cutting the ribbon on the Apollo Exhibit.

About an hour before the grand opening: Chad sweeping up while Laura, friend and fellow museum master Erica, and Robin caption photos, arrange artifacts, and clean cases.

The exhibit entrance, with the 8-foot Saturn V model in place.

Laura and Chad giving a pre-opening tour to a cameraman from one of the Bay Area TV news stations that covered the event.

Finally! Open to the public!
Some of the first real-life kids to try my Gravity Box, comparing the gravity of the Earth and Moon. Folks seemed to have fun with it and get the point. I kept waiting to hear a metallic "sproing-kaboom" as the box broke and possibly exploded, but it never did. Success!

Robin and Laura. The slips of paper on the octagonal case are artifact labels yet to be placed. Stop dawdling and get to work!
I shot two videos. The first is of the ribbon-cutting remarks by Museum Trustee Ken Winans (I missed the first few seconds). My favorite part is the audible gasp among the onlookers when the big doors open. The second video--worth watching only for those who really care, trust me--is a seat-of-the-pants tour of the exhibit I did 10 minutes before it opened.

I know one eagle-eyed viewer (sigh...Jim) will catch something that isn't in the video: the two iconic wood signs attached to the Mobile Quarantine Facility during the Apollo 11 and 12 recoveries (which I wrote about a while back). The custom acrylic case ordered to house them did not arrive in time. Those signs are in my opinion the Crown Jewels of the Hornet's collection, and will be displayed at the very back of the room so that visitors see them from the entrance. Just a bit disappointing, although the "Hornet +3" sign was on display in a case out on the Hangar Deck, so all was not lost.

Saturday was the exhausting culmination of months of work by Laura and her co-worker, Curator Chad, along with other volunteers and the occasional family and friends. The public seemed excited and satisfied, the museum staff and trustees I spoke to seemed ecstatic, and I'd say it was a total triumph. Especially impressive is that they did it all on a budget of about $600, so had to innovate and reuse as much as they could. As in all museums, their work will never be done, and a lot of great ideas will have to wait for more funding, but Laura and Chad created a foundation that the Hornet can build on for years to come. I'm very proud of her and proud to be a small part of it.


Jim O'Kane said...

A most impressive display. Glad the exhibit, and the day, came together so well.

And yes, I was going to ask about the MQF signs - - thanks for the backstory because all during the video I was saying, "Wait - where's HORNET + 3?" Looking forward to follow-up stories. Really need to get The Captain out to Alameda and eyeball this wonderful stuff in person.

Brian Fies said...

I knew you'd notice. The "Hornet +3" and "Three More Like Before" will go in a clear case in the space now occupied by the big blue splashdown photo at top left of the panel at 1:58. There's a lighted hood directly above that will frame and illuminate them nicely, and it's a straight visual shot from the entrance (in designing Disneyland, Walt Disney called them "weenies": something attractive at the end of a sightline to draw people into and through an area). Should be installed within a couple of weeks.

Marion said...

Another awesome Fies event. I'm glad I have another reason to go down there again -- not that ship isn't wonderful enough by itself.