Digital Resources From Museums: The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

The Education Techie reviews tech tools and websites that can help students and teachers. This week, the Techie is taking a look at some of the online educational resources offered by museums. Today's article explores the website of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.

air and space logo

Part of the Smithsonian Institute, the National Air and Space Museum (NASM) in Washington, D.C., is home to a collection that includes replicas, models and actual artifacts of important air and spacecraft. The NASM is particularly popular with children, especially those interested in flight, but exhibits are designed to appeal to individuals of all ages. The same is true of the museum's website, which offers interesting free resources. Here are some features of the site I found particularly useful.

Object Collections

If you can't make it to the National Air and Space Museum, but you want to use objects from its collection for a lesson or project, you're in luck. The NASM website includes high-quality images of much of its collection, including items that aren't currently on view. Objects are sorted into categories like space science, aerial cameras, aircraft, awards and insignia, propulsion and aircraft. There are also links to the museum's archives and the Regional Planetary Imagery Facility, a collaboration with NASA.

air and space museum object collection

When you click on an image in the index (pictured above), you are directed to a page that displays a a thumbnail along with a summary of information and a 'long description.' Clicking on the thumbnail displays a larger image. The object's display status is also described. If it is on display, its location within the museum is shown on a map.

Exhibitions Online

air and space exhibits online

This collection of 11 online exhibits is a good place to look if you want to plan a lesson about space or air travel. Some of the exhibits are more comprehensive than others, but they all feature high-quality images and explanatory text. For the most part, this online collection is based on exhibits that have actually been on display in the museum, and most of the individual entries include some kind of map or reference for the physical exhibit. Exhibition titles include 'Milestones of Flight,' 'America by Air,' 'Explore the Universe' (pictured above) and 'Business Wings.'

Online Activities

Targeted to various age groups, these six online activities from the NASM focus on different aspects of space and air travel. Activity titles include 'Black Wings,' which focuses on famous African American aviators, 'How Things Fly,' a lesson on the fundamental physics of aviation and 'Geography from Space,' a quiz that uses images of the earth taken from spacecraft.

air and space online activities

One classroom-appropriate activity with a lot of features is the 'Cyber Center' (pictured above). Users can register for an account within the 'Cyber Center,' which allows them to save their progress and come back later. The focus is planetary exploration, and the activity centers on a simulated research team's work. It's a pretty fun way for kids to learn about space and get a sense of what it's like to be a scientist.

This is the fifth article in a series about digital resources from museums. Previously, the Techie talked resources on the American Museum of Natural History, the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History,the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art websites. Stay tuned for more of these articles from the Education Techie!

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