I recently went through the interview process for a small aerospace/missile museum in a small rural community. While I ultimately did not receive an offer, I had plenty of time between the initial application and interview to consider what sort of programs and artifacts I could bring to the institution.


First, considerations of serving the community with entertainment as well as education. My experience with patrons, and the "war stories" of more experienced employees, has suggested to me that many comes to museum less with the intent to be educated than to be entertained.

A satellite view of the museum with two artifacts (standing) added and an entertainment/educational piece laid on the ground.

Providing entertainment at the museum could be done in a way that could enhance education in other settings. In this case, I favored a full-scale mockup of a Cold War missile that was creatively cutaway to provide spaces for play while highlighting features that could be used in tours and instruction.

From this angle, the first stage nozzles are easily apparent, with spaces cut out of the first stage to allow crawling through it. The spaces could also be sized so as to allow wheelchairs access. Large, easy to grab, handles (in green) move the nozzles in sockets to show how the first stage is steered. The second stage nozzle (which steers differently) uses blue blocks that move in and out of the nozzle to represent cold gas injection. A rod which can move in and out of the body of the missile represents the attitude control system, and the yellow splotch near the top of the missile would be a gyroscope.

A cutout of the third stage reveals the star grain pattern that helped revolutionize solid-rockets. The warhead, which would here be nuclear, would be a solid piece and, in an ideal world, cold, to create an aura and, hopefully, avoid idolizing the destructive potential of such weapons. At the far left is a standing plate, which could have different patterns to match the first stage nozzles to as a demonstration of how the missile moved. Hopefully it could be a blast shield sourced from relatively near Air Force bases to extend the museum's invested community and procure an artifact. 

The construction of such a piece would not have to be costly if the materials were chosen carefully and the articulations made simple enough. It could even be trialled at an existing event by creating a temporary version of one stage and gauging reactions and use. Having a "self-guided" place to play would also help at a museum where guided tours dictate the timing of your visit. Finally, depending on local support, since the museum was located away from its nearest community, a twin could be built in a more centrally located space as well as a source of good will and constant reminder of its presence.


Next, considerations of building the museum's profile by beginning a sustainable building of the collection. Leveraging the creation of the mock-up may help the museum acquire the actual artifact as well. Failing that, or to fill in the time frame needed to find and move such a piece, two other artifacts would serve as good stepping stones.

I know of a Nike-Hercules missile currently in storage, which could be useful in building a base of volunteers with restoration skills. It would fit into the museum's theme because the Nike-Hercules served in an anti-tactical ballistic missile role and the high cost of its successor helped spur treaties to limit anti-ballistic missile systems during the Cold War.

The successor to the Nike-Hercules was the Nike-Zeus, which quickly morphed into the Spartan and Sprint missiles. The Spartan missile, in particular, is well-represented in the area, with several communities having actual examples or mock-ups, which could be negotiated for (in the case of the former) or replicated (in the case of the latter) in exchange for a mock-up or piece similar to the interactive above. Such would be fitting, as, thankfully, the program responsible for those missiles was the only real casualty of the museum's primary missile. It would also help distinguish this site from others like it.


Next, considerations of advertising the museum in ways that involved the community. Since the museum was not located near major travel routes or cities, I felt it was especially important that whatever it was doing, it do with the community. I'd thought of several ideas, including creating a mod for Fallout 4 that modeled the museum and was programmed by local students to give them a taste of computer science and programming.


As mentioned above, these were all preliminaries, but I enjoyed thinking of them and thought maybe they could provide some inspiration to anyone who happened to stumble across them.

Comment