Soaring through the Archives of Air and Space with Transcription Center

Aviation Clubs, Apollo Missions, and Aerial Photography, Oh My!

Have you ever wondered what you should pack for a trip to the moon? Or what female aviator clubs were like in the 1930's? How about the history of grape soda and its relationship to America's first transcontinental flight?



Inflight Coverall Garment, Jacket, Apollo,  D19791187000, National Air and Space Museum; and items taken aboard Apollo 11, NASM Archives.


Well you're in luck! The answers to these questions -- recorded in the pages of diaries, letters, and scrapbooks held in the Archives of the National Air and Space Museum (NASM) -- are now more easily discoverable thanks to volunteer transcription.


Vin Fiz Art Poster, Armour & Co., 1911,  A1935044000, National Air and Space Museum.


Since 2015, staff in the NASM Archives have launched (pun intended) over 200 projects in the Smithsonian Transcription Center--including stowage lists from six different Apollo missions, records from Calbraith (Cal) Perry Rodgers' 1911 transcontinental flight (which was sponsored by the makers of the popular grape soda, the Vin Fiz), and the scrapbook of female pilot, Manila Davis Talley, containing multiple photographs and  news article on twentieth century women's aviation clubs and flying competitions. The Archives' collections span the history of flight, from ancient times to the present day, and include materials from military officers and personnel, NASA  astronauts, Smithsonian staff, civilian pilots and engineers, astrophysicists, nineteenth-century balloonists, flight attendants, and more. Over the past four years 1,062 volunteers (or 'volunpeers' as we say here in TC) have  transcribed close to 13,000 pages from the archival collections at NASM. These TC projects only constitute a small portion of NASM's archival collections, yet the work of digital volunteers transcribing and reviewing these materials increases accessibility and awareness of the rich information held within every page. (Want to learn more about how volunteer transcription makes Smithsonian collections accessible and text-searchable? Head to our "About" page and follow us on Twitter for ongoing updates, discoveries, and behind-the-scenes sneak peeks!)


Page from Scrapbook of Manila Davis Talley, NASM.XXXX.0041, National Air and Space Museum.


Here's some highlights from NASM TC Projects:

Sound recordings from the Apollo 11 launch. 


Apollo 11 Flight, Crew, Training, NASM Archives.

Correspondence, flight logs, and notes from Orville and Wilbur Wright

Materials from the Papers of General Benjamin O. Davis, Jr.- Commander of the 99th Fighter Squadron, the first unit of the "Tuskegee Airmen" during WWII and the first African American General in the U.S. Air Force (1954). 

The World War I diary of U.S. Army Air Service Officer Arthur Raymond Brooks.


William J. Eck's scrapbook, "To Europe By Air," documenting his trip on Pan American Airways' (PAA) first transatlantic passenger flight in 1939.

Scrapbook of Velma Maul Tanzer, Stewardess and Chief Stewardess for American Airlines, 1933-1936.


Velma Maul Tanzer, NASM.2005.0036, NASM Archives.

World War II diaries and scrapbooks from Harold Raskin (Army Airways Communications System, 7th AACS Wing Ground Control Approach (GCA) unit), William Jones (aerial photographer in the Army Air Corps), and a Japanese man named Yamada (much information on him is still unknown). 



            General Benjamin O. Davis, NASM.1992.0023, NASM Archives; and William Jones, NASM.2006.0067, NASM Archives.

Click here to explore all of the completed and ongoing Transcription Center projects from NASM. And keep an eye out for more projects coming soon, including a letter from astronaut John Glenn, Jr., diaries from WWI Pilot Zenos Miller, and collections documenting the groundbreaking work of female aviators Rubye Berau, Mary Charles, and Helen Richey.

*This post was originally published on the Smithsonian Collections Blog as part of #ArchivesMonth2019.