Smithsonian staff, Karl Hienzel and Richard Horgan, working on the Ecker Flying Boat at the Paul E. Garber Preservation, Restoration, and Storage Facility in Suitland, Maryland.

Here at the Smithsonian: Planes, Design, and Time

As Summer 2021 winds down, we'll hear from staff about the incredible number of hours and research that goes into restoring airplanes, see icons of Scandinavian furniture and product designs, and learn how atoms of hydrogren are used to create an amazingly accurate clock.

Before the age of YouTube and Instagram, public audiences learned about the happenings at the Smithsonian in newspapers, on the radio, and via public television programming. Between 1982 and 1989, TV viewers could catch up with the Smithsonian's latest exhibitions and research activities through short video features in a series called Here At The Smithsonian.

First up is the video "A Facelift for Old Planes," which features two planes in the collections of the National Air and Space Museum. Karl Hienzel and Richard Horgan worked on the Ecker Flying Boat and the De Havilland DH-4, a plane that took them 4,100 hours to restore, at the Paul E. Garber Preservation, Restoration, and Storage Facility in Suitland, Maryland. In their efforts to restore airplanes, Hienzel and Horgan often consulted with curatorial staff to learn about the construction techniques used to build the planes or to track down images of what the planes looked like when first manufactured.


Next is "Design for People," which highlights the exhibition Scandinavian Modern 1880-1980 at the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. It featured more than 330 works, including furniture, ceramics, glass, metalwork, and textiles from Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden, that document the history of Scandinavian design. What stands out about the works is that many of them were designed by artists and were meant for the average user. Their characteristic good looks and approachability contributed to their mass appeal to folks around the world.


Lastly there is "Keeping Perfect Time" that explores the incredibly accurate atomic hydrogren maser clock (only loses a single second over 50 million years!) built by physicist Robert F. C. Vessot and his team at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. The precise timekeeping allows television networks to control the frequency and synchronization of their broadcasts and enables radio astronomers and scientists tracking satellites or space probes to determine their exact locations in space.


Tune in on the last Tuesday of each month to explore more video features from Here at the Smithsonian. Interested in more? Head to our YouTube playlist of recently-uploaded clips from the series.

Related Collections

  • Office of Telecommunications Productions, 1982-1989, Accession 00-132, Smithsonian Institution Archive

Related Resources

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