Wintering With Our Digital Collections

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History Preserved
As seen in the November2021 issue of Model Aviation.

BY THE TIME this article is in print, the museum will have already closed its doors for the 2021 season. (Don’t worry, we’ll be back open in 2022!)

Although our physical doors will be closed through the winter, we’ll be working behind the scenes for you, improving exhibits, responding to donation offers and research questions, and, of course, adding more to our virtual offerings. We still want you to be able to see our collections and learn more about the history of model aviation from afar.

If you’re a regular reader of our "History Preserved" column, you likely know about the Museum’s digital collections ( This month, we’ll go into more depth about using this wonderful asset that benefits both diehard enthusiasts and those who are simply curious about aeromodeling’s history.

We’ve been working hard this year to add more than 1,600 records of library, archives, and object artifacts to our Digital Collections. As of September 2021, there are 8,000 total items in our online collections, and we continue to add more.

We continue to add to and refine our search terms, also known as tags, to make it easier for you to find what you need. Click on the Keyword Search tab and you’ll first see a search box. Underneath it are search tips that will be helpful to you for a successful search. Note that the search tips section will stay on the page when you hit the search button. You’ll have to scroll down past them to see your results.

a curtiss hawk kit from comet model airplane and supply co inc undated
A Curtiss Hawk kit from Comet Model Airplane and Supply Co., Inc. Undated, the kit was donated by Hobbies ‘N History.

Suppose that you want to find catalogs by the Comet Model Airplane and Supply Company. If you type in the word Comet, results will include catalogs and other associated artifacts, such as cement and kits. Search using the word combination of Comet and catalog to help narrow your search. It’ll be easier to find things.

dick sarpolus the jetster rc ducted fan model from the 1970s
Dick Sarpolus’ The Jetster RC ducted-fan model from the 1970s.

What if you type in Comet catalog, forgetting the word and? You’ll receive approximately 200 hits—all of the records with the word Comet and/or catalog in them. What if you add quotation marks? That will reveal no results because it will only search for records where that phrase is written exactly as you typed it. No records at this time have quotation marks.

cement from comet model airplane and supply co inc undated
Cement from Comet Model Airplane and Supply Co. Inc. Undated.

Are you looking for artifacts that are related to a particular time, say when you started modeling or when you were born? You can easily search by year or decade. For instance, searching for the 1970s will bring up roughly 150 results, similar to a color slide of a national aeromodeling competition in Turkey or Dick Sarpolus’ The Jetster, a ducted-fan RC model.

catalog from the comet model airplane and supply co inc undated
Catalog from the Comet Model Airplane and Supply Co., Inc. Undated, from the George B. Armstead, Jr. collection.

The Nats are one of our most requested topics. If you know that you want a certain type of material, you can search separate sections. Searching for Nats under the Archives tab currently brings up nearly 500 results, objects, and books. (Note: The books tab is a reference to our library materials, so you might get both books and videos in your results.) If you want to refine your search more, try the Advanced Search, where you can really whittle the search down to a specific item.

Test-drive the system with your own searches. If you have problems, call us or send us an email. If you’d first like to see some random examples of what we have in the Digital Collections, click on "Highlights." This will show you many artifacts at the same time. Click on one to dive into the history of aeromodeling.

We still have work to do on the digital collections, but we’ve had some good reviews and good suggestions as well. Check out what we have and let us know what you think! Stay tuned as we continue to add more materials.


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By Jackie Shalberg, National Model Aviation Museum archivist and historian

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