Tuesday, October 31, 2017
TOP OF THE ROCK--NATIVE AMERICANS
A statue at the entrance of the Ancient Ozarks Natural History Museum in Branson, Missouri
At the Ancient Ozarks Natural History Museum at the Top of the Rock in Branson, MO, many of the artifacts are the result of taking advantage of the creation of the Table Rock Reservoir. Hundreds of thousands of acres were to be flooded over an area that included hundreds of prehistoric Native American sites.
Dr. Carl Chapman, from the University of Missouri, set himself the task of locating, digging out as many of the artifacts as possible and recording them. Starting in 1950 he had seven years before the dam was built and the sites were flooded.
He found almost 900 prehistoric sites, most of them rock shelters along with thousands of stone artifacts. While many of them were projectile points, and are on display, I was familiar with them from many of the other Native American museums I have visited. What made this exhibition different was the emphasis on some other stone items that gave a feel for the introduction of agriculture and a more settled life that was established after 10,000 years of being hunter-gatherers.
Michael O'Brien, professor of anthropology, at the University of Missouri, is also credited with finding and organizing the artifacts in this museum.
Maize (corn) quickly spread from Mexico about 800 A.D. bringing about a major lifestyle shift that required the development of new tools for the new way of life. If I hadn't been told, I would not have recognized that the large, flat pieces of flint filling numerous display cases was "the tool that make agriculture possible--the spade."
With wooden handles they could dig the ground for planting, cut the weeds, and harvest the new food supply. The sign on one of the cases says, "mastering the spade production and the cultivation of maize was one of the single most important events over man's 14,000 year prehistory in America."
The invention of the hoe (spade) allowed Native Americans to develop field crops like corn
These early spades allowed the digging and planting of crops
The spade became one of the most traded items over the central part of the country including what are now Wisconsin, Illinois and Alabama. Being a trader in those days would have required a very strong person since these spades are not light-weight trading goods.
Even heavier was another tool that needed to be used to process the corn--large mortars (metates). A large variety line the walls of several of the exhibition areas along with the pestles to grind the various foods. Many of the mortars here show wear that indicates decades of usage. The display case notes suggest that the village usually had one main mortar for everyone in the village to use.
Stone mortars were used for processing food
Native American clothing has been acquired from other collections and plays a colorful role in the museum. Galley 21 is the War Shirt Galley and a quote from Wooden Leg, a Northern Cheyenne, introduced me to a new concept. "The idea of full dress in preparation for a battle comes not from a belief that it will add to the fighting ability. The preparation is for death, in case that should be the result of the conflict. Every Indian wants to look his best when he goes o meet the Great Spirit, so dressing up is done whether in imminent danger in an oncoming battle, or a sickness or injury at times of peace."
The shirts in the Galley are highly individualized and much thought has been taken in their design. The warrior would fast and contemplate the design, then consult a female bead worker to help create the design he imagined. Numerous women's dresses are also on display.
Galley 27 focuses on the Battle of Little Big Horn and includes the account of the battle by Black Elk, who was twelve when he witnessed the decimated Custer's army. It also includes Galleys on Buffalo Bill's Wild West, the Civil War and a Hall of Presidents.
Johnny Morris, owner of the Bass Pro Shop, some years ago placed his collection of Indian artifacts with the museum. He had based his work on the outstanding collection of the Native American artifacts in the Field Museum in Chicago,. The Ancient Ozarks Natural History Museum has one of the finest collection of Indian artifacts I have seen.
A shirt for a Native American warrior to die in
TOP OF THE ROCK
A lion four feet high at the shoulder, a short faced bear weighting 2,250 pounds and a Hell Pig as big as a rhino, how in the world did the Native Americans who faced them 13,000 years ago survive?
This was the question raised in our minds as we examined the giant skeletons of these prehistoric animals, and others that had existed in the Ozark region at the end of the last ice age. Most of these carnivorous giants went extinct 11,000 years ago.
Johnny Morris, who made his billions starting with the Bass Pro Shop, decided some years ago that he wanted to share his collection of artifacts with the public.
After consultation with the Field Museum in Chicago has built one of the most remarkable displays of Pleistocene Mammals at the Ancient Ozarks Natural History Museum at Top of the Rock, seven miles south of Branson, Missouri.
In the entrance area we were introduced to the Woolly Mammoth skeleton the size of a modern elephant, that is, about eight feet high at the shoulder.
Nearby was the skeleton of the American Lion, at four feet at the shoulder and 1000 pounds, was the largest cat of all time. Facing the lion was a short faced bear skeleton who could run 30 miles an hour and when standing was eight feet tall.
His thin legs meant he couldn't make sharp turns when chasing prey and probably used his large size to take kills away from other large predators. His bones showed his diet was purely meat based.
The actual museum was under ground and included 41 exhibition areas that curved around taking us through the Pleistocene age, through the different stages of Native Americans, to the arrival of the whites, and through the Civil War.
The first section we visited below the surface was about the giant animals of the past. One of the fossils was of the giant beaver who at seven feet long was the largest rodent of the ice age. With a very large head that lacked teeth for gnawing on wood--it probably did not make dams. It is suggested they died out because of the changing nature of the plants they ate.
A Bear Dog, the size of bear, attacks a Hell Pig
Fun to view were the dioramas that showed animals rebuilt to scale interacting (attacking) each other. One shows a bear dog attacking a Hell Pig. The bear dogs were dogs that were the size of modern bears who traveled in packs and had bone crushing teeth.
Seeing these animals on the attack, the question again comes up, "How could humans have been competitors?
One of the Giant Short Faced Bears attacks a Native American
This becomes even more of a question at a later diorama with an enormous short-faced bear attacking a Native American who had just killed a small deer. The bear stands over him arms raised, claws out, jaws wide open. The man leans back a small spear in his hand overwhelmed by the attack. But humans survived most of the violent carnivorous animals are long gone.
Why did these animals go extinct. Did the mammoths' go extinct due to over hunting by humans and animals? Did the carnivorous giants die out because humans were better competitors for the animals they both hunted for food. Several scientific reports I checked suggested two other factors.
Mega animals may have had a difficult time adjusting to the heating up of the atmosphere as the ice age ended. In addition a long period of drought around 10,500 years ago may cut down numbers and made animals easier to hunt by humans as they gathered at water holes.
We were left with questions, but were pleased to have been introduced to new animals that been previously unknown to us. We have another story about Top Of The Rock about their marvelous collection of the many ways Native Americans developed to make their way in the world.
Some Terror Birds of the time were 10 feet tall and attacked the small horses who lived in those days
12,000 years ago America's midlands had giant elk and giant cats
Giant Ground Sloths existed in the American midlands 13,000 years ago
Tuesday, October 17, 2017
University of Kansas Natural History Museum
When we were in Laurence, Kansas at the KU Biodiversity Institute & Natural History Museum, ranked No. 1 among public programs, we were impressed by the focus on life on the earth. This museum has the largest university collection in the world of specimens of plants, animals, fossils and the archeological.
Walking into the Natural History Panorama of North American mammals was a wow experience. We felt we had been dropped into an alternate reality where all of the mammals of North America were suddenly there in front of us in their natural settings.
The University of Kansas Natural History Museum has a marvelous collection of taxidermied animals.
Each area had its appropriate vegetation, water, rocks and background so cleverly integrated that you couldn’t see where the picture background began.
In 1886 William T. Hornaday went on what he called, “The Last Buffalo Hunt,” to get specimens for what could be an animal headed for extinction.
One of the men he taught his methods to for preparing animals for display was Lewis Lindsay Dyche. Hornaday later pushed for the government to protect bison and the numbers have gone up so there is no chance of their extinction.
Hornaday helped prepare the animals for a panorama of North American Wildlife to be shown at the Kansas Pavilion at the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago.
Many of these animals became part of the present exhibition when Dyche's methods of taxidermy mounting and exhibition caught the public’s eye at a time when neither the media nor the nature programs had shown much interest. The State of Kansas dedicated Dyche hall for a permanent home.
Animals from all parts of North America are on display at the University of Kansas Natural History Museum
Seeing the animals on display it was hard to believe that they had been mounted over 125 years ago. The panorama is arranged by areas with the first one being the rainforest. This and the Polar section were added later so visitors could have a complete North American experience.
The positions and faces of the animals convey much about them. In the forest scene two wolves face off with a skunk. The skunk is defiant and the male wolf is threatening while the female wolf is watching patiently as if being more aware of the skunk's power than her companion.
At the mountainside covered with several dozen mountain animals we got a lesson in the evolution of the mountain sheep hooves that not only have sharp edges to hold on to the stones but a suction cup feature that gives it added advantages.
The plains area has buffalo, deer, badgers, ground hogs, and other animals so complete that you could study North American animals by just studying what is in the gigantic Panorma.
At one point in the exhibition is a display with five different animal furs for the visitor to touch to see the different ways fur has evolved to meet the living conditions of that particular animal: Warmth in water, warmth in cold air, snag resistant, underground movement, and change with the seasons.
From a higher floor we viewed the mountain scene as if we were standing on a high crag.
On another floor there were naturalist displays in boxes of mammals in scenes doing what they do. A Red Fox carefully stalks a prairie vole in a snowy scene.
On the main floor in a separate section taxidermy horse Comanche stands alone in the semi dark to protect his hide from light damage. He was the sole survivor of the Custer’s Last Stand at Little Big Horn.
Despite being badly shot up he survived and lived another 15 years. When he died his hide was preserved and later turned into a monument of the battle.
The museum's section on the results of evolution was so interesting in itself that I will write a separate story about it for next week's Venture Bound.
Two wolves confront a skunk.
Carla faces off with fierce taxidermied bear.
Monday, September 18, 2017
JURASSIC WORLD: THE EXHIBITION
The Jurassic World: The Exhibition, until January 2018, at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, is an unusual traveling exhibit based on the movie Jurassic World. The exhibit includes a blend of some realistic dinosaurs, some active entertainment, and some science fiction. Although my wife Carla and I basically enjoyed most of the exhibition, we were a few times confused about what was questionably science at this time by most scientists.
A special 17,000 square foot plastic-walled perma-tent has been erected on the museum's front lawn for the exhibition, which has been so popular that visitors need timed entree tickets. Even with these limits we found the exhibition overcrowded making it difficult to hear the guide giving a tour of the fictional Isla Nublar on TV screens.
Not knowing what to expect each new area was a surprise. When we entered a jungle like environment , we soon encountered a Stegosaurus and a Brontosaurus, who moved their heads, their eyes followed us and they were close to us.
Next we entered a room that gave us "scientific" background how these were genetically created by taking dinosaur DNA from mosquitoes who had bitten them and then become incased in amber. To reassure us of the reality of this "scientific" approach a full wall of brightly lit amber is on display. This mix of fictional science from the movie and real science presented elsewhere in the exhibition may be bit confusing to some visitiors.
A case has three baby dinosaurs who have just broken out of their eggs and on the walls are displays explaining to visitors the "science" involved in their re-creation.
The exhibition took on more reality as we entered the next space. A barrier stood before us and we were asked to wait a moment because a carnivorous velociraptor had been seen in the area.
A carnivorous velociraptor attacked walls of his cage.
And sure enough a moment later he came roaring around the corner full of noise and what looked like rage. He bit at the barrier and hit his head against it trying to break it down. We were all impressed but the kids in the group found him especially enchanting.
However, mostly we were also being exposed to real science and could touch screens to learn more about the movie it was based on and others to give us real scientific information as it was known when the film was made.
That is, these dinosaurs were covered in scales and had a certain coloring. The recent information we have on the subject suggests that rather than scales they may have been covered in feathers like their descendants the birds.
Our biggest thrill was yet to come. We entered a fair-sized room that had a fence and a truck like the one used in the movie. We heard a roar and then saw the head of a T-Rex soon followed by his body. He also was in a bad mood and upon seeing the truck tried to tip it over. His head and mouth were so large he could have picked me up in it.
A modified T-Rex was the scariest thing in the exhibition.
(Picture courtesy of Field Museum)
Later in the Field Museum in the Stanley Field Hall I found that he was same size as the T-Rex Sue, 40 feet long. Sue who has 90% of the original dinosaur resides on the first floor and is a major attraction.
a permanent, expanded collection including every major group, and the worlds they lived in.
The Jurassic World exhibition opened last year in Franklin Institute in Philadelphia and has been at the Melbourne Museum, in Australia.
The exhibition is a drop back into the world's very distant past.
Sunday, August 13, 2017
My first psychiatric hospital experience was as an intern at Nebraska Psychiatric Institute in 1954. This was before drugs were used to control psychiatric symptoms of mental illnesses and a variety of what are now labeled primitive methods of treatment were in use.
So recently at the Glore Psychiatric Museum in St Joseph, MO., I took a step back in time to those days and beyond to the truly dark ages of mental health treatment .
The museum is on four floors of what once was the Lunatic Asylum #2 that housed 3000 patients. In 1954 we relied on treatment methods that were of little help, but gave us some feeling that some patients were improving.
Electric shock was being used for a variety of conditions such as depression, schizophrenia, homosexuality, and hysteria. When I watched a patient I was counseling on the table in convulsions my visual field narrowed and I almost passed out.
Electric Shock was used for most every mental illness
It has been found that the electric shock does work on some problems including certain kinds of depression, but it has been dropped for most other mental health conditions. Since 1973 homosexuality has no longer been considered a mental illness.
Also familiar to me from my time at Nebraska was the patient (manikin) in a tub of ice water that was used as a calming technique.
Ice baths were also used for treatment of mental illness
One section of the museum is given over to lobotomies that were still being used in the 1950s. Dr. Egas Moniz won a Noble Prize in 1949 for developing the procedure. Later as a VA psychologist I worked with victims of this method of treatment that separated by surgery the frontal lobes--one's judgment center --from the rest of the brain. The cases I worked with had lost the ability to be rehabilitated for life outside the hospital.
From those 1950s methods the museum went back even further to more primitive ways of dealing with the mentally ill: steel crates to hold violent patients, isolation in chains to calm them, wheels like the ones rats run on to teach them to be still.
Even further back it was dangerous to be mentally ill because you could be declared a witch or a cohort of the devil and be burned at the stake. A manikin stands ready for execution, strapped to a pole with the firewood stacked at her feet.
Some mentally ill people were burned at the stake as witches
The basement of the museum took us into another dimension of running a mental hospital: food. The hospital had had gardens and animal barns to provide some of the tremendous amount of food consumer by 3000 patients. The cooking area had tubs in which hundreds of pounds of potatoes could be cooked at one time.
Patients not only grew much of the food and helped with the cooking but other money making projects helped keep hem active. Daily walks were also a part of the treatment.
In the 1950s there were complaints about patients being required to work and complaints about this policy that was cutting into local businesses--so that treatment was dropped. When I worked in a VA hospital after this kind of work was forbidden, I found some patients who had grounds' privileges were sneaking off into the woods to cultivate patches of vegetables.
Cutting out patient labor made hospitals more expensive and with the widespread use of drugs for treatment, it was felt many of the patients could be discharged.
This had a number of consequences, one being an increase of crime and the sending of many mentally ill to prison. It is shown at this hospital by the section that is now a Missouri prison with 250 prisoners.
My own experience with prisoners is that many of them should be receiving mental health treatment. My observations were agreed to by prisoners I have worked with who resent the mentally ill among them because they are so unpredictable.
The Glore Museum is an eye-opening experience. Visitors also have the opportunity to see three other small museums connected to the Glore which I will write about next week.
COSMOSPHERE INTERNATIONAL SPACE MUSEUM
At the Cosmosphere International Space Museum in Hutchison, Kansas, my wife Carla and I continued to be amazed that a town of only 42,000 people had been able to develop one of the top world's space museums, a major destination for education about space exploration.
The museum started small when a local woman, Patricia Brooks Carey, bought a used star projector and opened a small planetarium in 1962. In 1966 Dr. Robert H. Goddard's lab was added, Goddard being one of the first scientists to test rockets beginning in 1926.
By now the museum has the largest combined collection of U.S. and Russian space artifacts in the world. It was easy to lose ourselves in the 105,000 square-feet of rockets, space capsules, astronaut suits and stories of creative and far-seeing personalities.
One of the planetarium's consultants was serving on a committee at the Smithsonian that was trying to find homes for thousands of space artifacts that had been released at the end of the Apollo program. Adding artifacts from this collection led to the opening of the Kansas Cosmosphere and Discovery Center in 1980. The museum continued to seek out and add artifacts and in 1997 a new venue was opened three times the size of the previous one.
One rocket is Mercury-Redstone Launch Vehicle the other Titan II rocket used in the Gemini Program
Here is a quick overview. As we approached the building, we saw two rockets standing at the corners. One was a Mercury-Redstone Launch Vehicle and the other a Titan II rocket used in the Gemini program. The Titan was placed in the original rocket pit that had been used at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
In the lobby was a Lockheed Blackbird overhead, the world's fastest spy plane at 2,200 miles-per-hour at 85,000 feet. It had a black titanium surface that reached 600 degrees Fahrenheit--this one had flown many missions.
The Germans had done much to develop rocketry in their V-1 and V-2 missile rockets which led the way to space exploration. A display told the story of how Wernher von Braun helped develop the two rockets and at the end of war how he took his team of scientists to the U.S. army rather be captured by the Russians.
A space shuttle stands in the lobby
Despite the U.S. having von Braun, the Russians were ahead of us in the space race. A section is devoted to the Soviet Vostok Capsule--the U.S. was given a few capsules. The first man to use it to go into space was the Russian Yuri Gagarin.
Although the Apollo White Room doesn't look like much when you are standing in it you are standing in the actual room from which the astronauts entered their spacecraft on their way to the moon.
The Apollo 13 had become famous after the narrow escape from death of its astronauts on a failed mission. The original Apollo 13 has been reconditioned after a massive search for its 80,000 components that had been spread across the world The capsule itself had been taken back from a museum in Paris, France, after much political maneuvering.
We took in the three presentations that were available. At the Digital Dome theater was "Dream Big: engineering our world," a 3D movie that told how engineers are making a better world including creating more space for humans by building earthquake-proof high rise buildings. We watched the Night Sky Live at the planetarium,
We were especially delighted at the live presentation in the Dr. Goddard's Lab by a young scientist who demonstrated with energy, various forms of propulsion used in rockets. We were also impressed with the sophisticated questions asked by two ten-year -old girls sitting behind us. They were obviously very interested in science.
We have visited the National Air and Space Museum, Washington, D.C., Kennedy Space Center, Florida, and the U.S Space and Rocket Center, Huntsville, Alabama. We found them all outstanding, but this nearby museum in a small town was a match in terms of the artifacts available for examination.
Moon landing suits
The actual Apollo 13
Thursday, July 6, 2017
MISSOURI TOWN 1855
When touring Missouri Town 1855 near Blue Springs, I enjoyed learning what everyday life was like in western Missouri then.
The first stop was the kitchen at the large Squire's House where five ladies in dresses that reached their shoes were preparing a meal with emphasis on the bread. A fire in the fireplace was ablaze to provide the hot coals that would be placed under and on top of the Dutch Oven. Since heat varies they needed to become experts at judging when the bread was fully baked. One of the rewards of volunteering as re-enactors is that they get to eat what they prepare.
Down the hill I found the smallest lawyer's office I have ever seen, and a bit latter the smallest schoolhouse that might comfortably seat 12 children. Attendance would have been sporadic for some children because they were needed at home for work and in some cases did not have the eight dollars required for yearly tuition.
A really small school house, seats 12 max
What I was experiencing was authentic surviving buildings from the seven county area of western Missouri as they existed in 1855. The year 1855 was chosen because it was the last year before the Kansas border fighting began to disrupt the area with pro-slavery and anti-slavery forces in open conflict.
Spread over 30 acres are 26 pre-Civil-War buildings, restored and furnished as they would have been at that time, providing an interesting step back into the past with re-enactors available to help you understand what you are seeing--the structures, furniture, equipment, crops in the fields and gardens and the livestock breeds .
The day I visited only two other places were staffed with re-enactors. At the blacksmith shop three men worked with the aid of a large bellows that provided the heat for two projects. On one side a master blacksmith was helping an apprentice make a pair of tongs. On the other another blacksmith was shaping a circular iron object that would go on sale in the gift shop.
An apprentice practices his skills under the eye of a master blacksmith
The other re-enactors were two women in the sheep section. The sheep had recently been sheared, an exciting occasion for the school children that day. Three of the ewes had four lambs, one of which was immature and needed to be regularly fed with a bottle since she couldn't nurse.
Cow and horse breeds of the 1800s were present and the barns and outbuildings looked in good shape, and in keeping with the times were in need of paint. The largest house was the Greek Revival Colonel's House that would have been owned by a affluent Southern planter.
Children can get up close to a variety of farm animals
At the end of my tour a seven-minute introductory movie gave me a sense of what it would have been like at the time since in the movie the town was filled with re-enactors showing us how the buildings were used. The church had mystified me the way it was split into two sections: when I saw that women were seated on one side and men on the other, I knew why.
In the movie the tavern filled with customers with drinks and food seemed much larger and the two rooms upstairs made more sense when I recognized the one with multiple small beds was for males and the one with the large bed for women.. Men were much more likely to be traveling and in need for a place to sleep.
The tavern was probably the busiest place in the village since it was the stop for travelers, those in need of gossip and a good drink. In addition the village mail was delivered here.
Started in 1963 with a few buildings it took 20 years for the major work on reconstruction to be done by a volunteers from a multitude of places coordinated by Jackson County Parks and Rec.
A living history museum such as this one holds a special charm, not only because the visitors find so much to enjoy but because the re-reactors so obviously enjoy playing their roles and sharing what they know with their audience.
This family had a better than average income; see the piano?
FLORIDA MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY
What an amazing step-back-in-time we had at the Florida Museum of Natural History at the University of Florida campus in Gainesville!
For over 100 years the staff at the museum has been building an archeological collection that is now considered to be the best Southeast attraction of its kind. It focuses on the evolution of fossils and animals and the way of life of the Indians when the Spanish in the 15 hundreds met with them in the land that is now called Florida.
A film explained how faculty members found fossils under water in the local lakes and rivers. Two sections especially drew our attention.
The "Florida Fossils: Evolution of Life and Land" starts with fossils from the Eocene period 65 million years ago when Florida was still under water. We followed the evolution of life forms up to the recent Pleistocene period 14,000 years ago when humans first arrived on the scene.
The skeletons of the various animals are 90 percent complete due to the preservative nature of the silt under which they were kept.
We saw a range of the fossil skeleton remains: cats that no longer exist but looked like big saber tooth tigers, a terror bird that looked like a small T-Rex, a 15-foot tall ground slough, a horse the size of a great Dane and an animal that looked to be a combination of a bear and dog.
Saber tooth tiger like cat hunts an early horse
Shark Jaw Row took us past shark jaws that ranged in height from two to nine feet and included the jaw of the extinct Megalodon, the largest shark that ever lived.
Most fossils were found within 100 miles of Gainesville. Videos at the displays taught us about the various periods of the area's history.
The second especially interesting section, with displays inside and outside the museum, celebrates the way of life of the Calusa Indians and how they made use of their water-filled environment. Many scenes show realistic life-size figures engaged in various activities.
We entered a palm-thatched hut and found ourselves in a Calusa leader's home during a ceremony where the chief and his wife were greeting an important visitor. The setting was 1564 and the characters were based on Spanish records of the period.
A Calusa Leader greets a visitor in a ceremony in his home
Panels explained that many of the artifacts in the scene were the result of trading and some came from as far away as Missouri.
One scene shows a family outside a hut which is resting on the sea shells the Calusa used to build up the land above sea level to make the area habitable.
The islands they lived on were often built up by layers of seashells
Another scene shows a native outside his Calusa hut in an area filled with birds and sea food available at the time. Using a labeled map visitors can become more aware of where various foods and raw materials were available.
Given the water world they lived in, boat building was a common occupation of the Calusa, and in several areas boats were displayed.
On a TV scene two scientists discussed how the age of the boats was determined and the kind of wood used. In one area of Florida the remains of 101 boats were found with ages over a 1,000 years apart. In 1763 Spain ceded Florida to Britain and the last surviving Calusa were moved to Cuba.
Another section has scientists working at their tables studying the DNA of butterflies and other insects to determine who was related to whom and how.
The Butterfly Rainforest exhibit has over 1,500 species of moths and butterflies and many birds, plants and trees. At certain times a guide holds some butterflies close up and tells visitors about each one in detail before it is released.
When visitors stand at the Cultural Plaza, the museum is bordered on one side by the Phillips Center for the performing arts and on the other side is the Harn Museum of Art. So eventually we will try to explore these other attractions.
Calusa tools and weapons
The Terror Bird looks like a small T-Rex
Tuesday, July 4, 2017
WHICHITA KANSAS AVIATION MUSEUM
When visiting the Kansas Aviation Museum in Wichita, I worked my way up the narrow curving steps to the control tower, at 1500 feet one of the highest points in the city. The view of the sky line was breathtaking.
Attractive modern buildings were on one side and on the other side was the museum area with visitors exploring the collection of fascinating airplanes that had been designed or redesigned and manufactured in the city. The planes had met our country's needs in peace and war and contributed to the growth and prosperity of the city.
On the field were the small airplanes: a Cessna, several Beechcrafts and a Learjet that had greatly expanded private use. These were the planes the city based its reputation on as the "Air Capital of the World."
Their publicity claims they have manufactured more than half of the world's light aircraft and business jets, in addition to being a major builder of commercial airliners.
The bottom picture is of a Boeing B-52 Stratofortress first built in 1952 and continues as our heavy bomber to this day.
Standing out on the runway amidst the collection of planes built here, including a Boeing 737 and Boeing 727, was an old Boeing B-52 Stratofortress, the massive bomber first used in 1952 that continues to be our main heavy bomber to this day.
Although the prototypes were built at the Boeing plant in Seattle, in 1957 all production was moved to Wichita where production ended in 1962 with 742 airplanes having been built. Today the B-52 is considered the long rifle of the air force because it has a range of 8,800 miles without aerial refueling.
One of the docents told me that if I was staying until Saturday, I would be able to climb inside and explore their B 29, the bomber used in the Pacific war zone in World War II. Too bad it did not fit my schedule.
The area was the Wichita Municipal Airport from the 1930's until 1954. In those days planes needed refueling on the way from one coast to another. Wichita became that point, and as a result many famous people of the day such as Fred Astaire, Bob Hope and Howard Hughes walked and mingled on terminal's floors. The area became known as the "Country Club without dues."
During World War II this was the fifth busiest airport in the country because it was the stopping off point for coast to coast flights. It was also the testing field for the tens of thousands of airplanes being built for the war effort in Wichita.
The airport stopped being a commercial stop in 1954, but continued as a military base until1984, and became a museum in 1991. I found the first of the three floors a bit dull at times since engines and propellers by themselves don't interest me as much as some others might find them
The Swallow, 1920, the first commercial airplane built
The second floor, however, had a remarkable collection of private planes with names well known to us: Cessna and Beechcrafts. A variety of cockpits were available for examination including the freedom to get into the cockpit if you are limber enough. The cockpits had been used for the first training experience of future pilots so they could familiarize themselves with the complicated instrument panels.
Hands-on experiences for children included a trainer and a cockpit where visitors can raise and lower the planes' wheels.
Third floor has the Kansas aviation military exhibit with a time line of its involved in our wars. Along the walls are cases with an impressive collection of model airplanes to show the dozens of different planes that have been built here. The displays were put together by Women's Aeronautical Association of Wichita.
A very attractive early drone called the Pave Cricket is on display. Built in 1987 and cancelled in 1989, its job was to seek out enemy radars that control anti-aircraft artillery or surface to air missiles and defuse them. While impressive looking it evidently didn't do the job or else was too easy to shoot down.
Before I came I had not been aware of the large role that Wichita had played in the development of air travel and was impressed with the range of artifacts that are available to visitors who visit the museum.
A training cockpit