SPENCER – A deeper look into the history of the Wright Brothers will join railroad and automotive exhibits at the N.C. Transportation Museum this December. “The World Aloft – 1908: The Year the Airplane Went Public,” features the history of efforts to make powered flight known worldwide. A full size replica Wright Flyer, period artifacts, models and pieces of the original Wright Flyer, with an amazing history of their own, will all be displayed.
“The World Aloft” celebrates May 14, 1908 as the day the Wright Brothers were first observed by credible witnesses as the official pioneers of flight. While the first flight took place in 1903, it was five years later that the Wright Brothers returned to Kill Devil Hills, accompanied by reporters, cameramen and others that would make their success known to the world.
Featuring sixteen photo panels, “The World Aloft” was created by East Carolina University Professor of History Dr. Larry Tise and his students. The exhibit features information and misinformation printed by the press as well as national and international public reaction to the Wright Brothers’ accomplishments. It is based on a similar exhibit displayed at the Wright Brothers National Memorial at Kitty Hawk, N.C.
“The World Aloft” will be accompanied by several items on loan from other museums and individuals, the largest of which is a full size replica Wright Flyer. The Wright Brothers Memorial in Kitty Hawk, in support of the exhibit, is loaning the replica to the N.C. Transportation Museum. The Flyer is 21 ft. long and carries a 40 ft. wing span. The 605 lb. replica will provide visitors with an up close view of aviation history.
Two pieces of the original Wright Flyer will also be displayed, on loan from the N.C. Museum of History in Raleigh. The small piece of wood and scrap of silk were recovered after the Wright Flyer was upended by wind and damaged, following the fourth flight Dec. 17, 1903. These pieces are truly historical, but carry an even more fascinating story.
According to the N.C. Museum of History, in 1986, these artifacts were loaned to NASA at the request of Michael Smith, a space shuttle pilot aboard the Challenger. A North Carolina native, Smith wanted to take a piece of the Wright Flyer with him into space. Following the tragic explosion of the Challenger, the fragments of the Wright Flyer were recovered from the wreckage and returned to the N.C. Museum of History. Those same pieces will be displayed at the N.C. Transportation Museum as part of “The World Aloft”.
Artifacts never before seen by the public will also be presented. Rifle targets used by the Wright Brothers during their stay in North Carolina will be loaned to the museum. The targets are owned by Douglas Twiddy, an Outer Banks collector of Wright Brothers memorabilia.
Period artifacts will provide context for the Wright Brothers accomplishments. Everyday items used in 1908 will be displayed, including a 1907 Ford Model R and a “boneshaker” bicycle from the museum’s collection. Salisbury resident Clyde Overcash will provide period furniture, shoes and hats, toys, musical instruments and other household items.
Models of the Wright Flyer and the Hattie Creef, a ship used to carry the Wright Brothers and their flyer from Elizabeth City to the Outer Banks, will be displayed. These models were painstakingly created by Charlotte resident and museum volunteer Carl Baumgart.
Children can enjoy interactive displays, with a chance to create their own cartoon drawing of Wilbur and Orville Wright and the Wright Flyer. A telegraph machine will allow kids to tell the world about the first powered flight.
North Carolina school students have also been involved in this exhibit for several months. In June, the N.C. Transportation Museum began “The World Aloft” Student Competition. Middle and high school children were invited to submit exhibits exploring an aspect of the Wright Brothers first flight. The top three projects will be displayed alongside “The World Aloft”.
“The World Aloft – 1908: The Year the Airplane Went Public” opens Dec. 17, the 106th anniversary of the Wright Brothers’ first flight. Located in the N.C. Transportation Museum’s Bob Julian Roundhouse, the exhibit and all associated items will be displayed through June, 2011.
Contributing sponsors to “The World Aloft” include The Tom Davis Fund, the Charlotte-Douglas International Airport and the Asheville Regional Airport. The sixteen panel “The World Aloft” exhibit will be displayed at Charlotte Douglas Airport, starting July, 2011.
The N.C. Transportation Museum, located in historic Spencer Shops, the former Southern Railway repair facility, is part of the Division of State Historic Sites, Department of Cultural Resources. The museum is located just five minutes off I-85 at Exit 79 in Spencer, N.C., and about an hour from Charlotte, Greensboro or Winston-Salem. Visit www.nctrans.org for more information. The N.C. Department of Cultural Resources is celebrating the 2009 theme of “Treasure N.C. Culture.” For information on the Department of Cultural Resources, call (919) 807-7385 or visit www.ncculture.com.