Russell's Museum Biases
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Historical Era

I like "golden age" aircraft.  Any civil aircraft after WWI up until 1941 counts as interesting to me.  Air transports are particularly interesting, although mostly you find smaller aircraft from this era.  Military types from this timeframe are ok.  Post-WWII "classic" civil aircraft are also interesting, such as Cessna 195s.

I do not take much fancy to WWII warbirds, so you won't find many pictures of them or reviews.  This is unfortunate since most museums tend to focus more on military and especially WWII military rather than on civil aircraft.

Strangely enough, I do like post-WWII transports and large military transports and bombers, for example Boeing B-47s, Douglas Globemasters, Lockheed Constellations, Convair 580s, and de Havilland Comets.  I also find missiles and space boosters very interesting.  This liking does not extend to fighters and small attack craft.

Lastly, WWI and before is not very interesting to me, although Wilbur and Orville and Glenn Curtis and others had some big ones to get into those early machines.

Keep 'Em Flying

I like a museum that flies its airplanes vs. a pretty static display.  The only times I think it is appropriate to not fly an aircraft is when the historical value of a particular plane is very high, such as the Spirit of St. Louis.  If there's more than one, it should be flown to show the airplane in its natural element.  I appreciate a museum that tries to keep their aircraft in flying condition.

Information Content

I prefer a museum that is information-rich.  Unfortunately many recent museums have taken cues from television and focus on media-rich but information poor displays.  I like to see the artifacts and have detailed printed materials nearby to inform the viewer.  I also like to see a book-rich gift shop where more background reading can be purchased.

In 1998 I visited Winston Churchill's command bunker in downtown London.  They have interesting artifacts and some printed reference, but a lot of program was only available through an audio program on a headset.  This is a horrible way to see a museum.  The Bowfin, a WWII submarine on display at Pearl Harbor, has the same problem.

Even though I don't enjoy MTV-style experiences, efforts to set the proper historical context through sets, period music, costumed figures, and relevant cultural news clippings are appreciated.

Aircraft Display

I've never figured out the best way to view aircraft in a museum.  There seem to be two major schools of thought - ground level walking around the aircraft, either on a hangar floor in behind a display, or with the aircraft suspended and some kind of balcony viewing arrangement.  The aerial display is nice for seeing the airplane in flying configuration, but you lose almost all close-up detail and viewing angles are severely restricted because there are never balconies all the way around an aircraft.

In a ground display, you get get views of the bottom rivets on the fuselage.  Neither method allows for interior viewing or understanding of the size of an aircraft.  In this regard, fly-ins are the only way to go, where you can generally approach an aircraft close-up from all angles and peek inside the cabin (with the owner's permission of course).

So far, I think the EAA Museum in Oshkosh and a few side galleries of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum have the best compromises by keeping most aircraft on the ground, hanging a few planes in a relatively low space, and providing close-by balconies to the suspended craft.