The Smithsonian’s Evolving Role as the Nation’s Knowledge Partner
In the skies high above Germany on November 26, 1943, Major Gabby Gabreski was pushing his Republic P-47 Thunderbolt hard. The 56th Fighter Group of the U.S. Army Air Forces had been ordered to cover the withdrawal of Boeing B-17 Flying Fortresses after bombing the industrial city of Bremen.
Gabreski, leading the 61st Fighter Squadron, was flying fast to rescue the American bombers, which were being swarmed by Nazi fighter planes. As they arrived on the scene, the commander ordered his pilots into the fray.
Gabreski could see targets everywhere. He gunned the turbocharged engine in his powerful plane and went on the attack. Gabreski spotted a Messerschmitt Bf 110 and drew a bead. At 700 yards, he let go with a burst from his eight .50-caliber machineguns, causing the twin-engine plane to burst into flames. He had to dive to avoid colliding with the disintegrating aircraft.
Minutes later, Gabreski
After the Smithsonian collects an object, what happens to it? Some objects go on display, some become vital resources for researchers and scientists, some are loaned to peer institutions or federal agencies.
But none of this would be possible without conservation: the complex technical work to preserve, restore and research the 155 million objects in the Smithsonian collections. From pigment to porcelain, silk to stone, our conservators support the material needs of every Smithsonian museum. Whether protecting revered artifacts from rare bacteria or pioneering new methods in spectroscopy, Smithsonian staff combine object expertise and state-of-the-art technology to better understand the natural world, history, aerospace, archaeology and art.
I am awed by this work. It requires great technical acumen, ingenuity and meticulous attention to detail. Many of the objects we collect need serious TLC: intensive cleaning, painstaking repair, storage in a controlled and safe environment. And at the Smithsonian, we specialize