The Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum is boldly going where it's never gone before. The 41-year-old museum on the National Mall is about to get its first-ever face-lift.
This summer, 23 galleries will be updated. Some, like the gallery commemorating the Apollo moon missions, will be completely redone.
“We’re going to have all kinds of wonderful new exhibit techniques that will tell this important story,” said Chief Curator Peter Jakab.
Those changes—which will be paid for by $250 million in donations-- were born out of necessity. The museum’s stone structure, heating and air conditioning, and other major mechanical systems are starting to show their age. To make infrastructure improvements, the Smithsonian has requested $650 million in federal money.
The project will take approximately seven years. It’s being done in phases, so the Smithsonian says many exhibitions will be kept open during construction. Some artifacts from the Smithsonian Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Virginia will be moved into the museum on the National Mall.
"I've been a curator here 34 years, and back then it still had that new museum smell,” said Jakab. “But now we're in need of some repair, so we're looking forward to making it a bigger and better Air and Space Museum.”