Evidence A                                                                  

San Diego Air & Space Museum

SD Air & Space Museum

San Diego Air & Space Museum Library & Archives

Website: http://sandiegoairandspace.org/research/

Mission Statement

“to collect, preserve, and make available for research published, documentary, and visual materials that chronicle the development of Air & Space technology and experience”

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Facts –

Collections include 18,000 books, 600 periodicals, 9,000 films and videos, 9,000 manuals, over 3 million still images, 10,000 drawings, over 200 special collection items (personal and corporate papers), 1,000 maps, 500 flight logs, 600 oral histories

Three full-time staff members, one grant-funded staff member, and 35 volunteers

Among their projected goals is to preserve assets for future generation and raise awareness of their collections

Fragmented collection database (listed in card catalogs or Excel spreadsheets) until the recent purchase of an Integrated Library System. The creation of an online catalog came with their digitization project and use of MARC records to adhere to national standards

Active on social media with Twitter, Facebook, a blog, Pinterest, Flikr, and YouTube

Revenue is generated through use of digitized photos in the library archives


Located in historic Balboa Park, the San Diego Air and Space Museum celebrates aviation history by taking visitors on a journey through the history of flight. Its general mission was to further the public’s education of aviation and space history. Its official mission statement is to “collect, preserve, and make available for research published, documentary, and visual materials that chronicle the development of Air & Space technology and experience.” It serves as a repository for various historical and contemporary publications and records concerning aviation and space history. The collection focuses on aerospace vehicles, events, and individuals associated with the San Diego. The Library & Archives is open to Museum staff, volunteers, Museum members, researchers, students, and other aviation enthusiasts with valid museum admission but appointments are required to access the collections.[1]

Models of Lindberg’s Spirit of St. Louis and a Navy F6F Hellcat, as well as the real Montgolfier’s hot air balloon and Apollo IX Space Module are among the storied displays within the museum. It was first created under the name San Diego Aerospace Museum in October of 1961. The museum doors opened in February of 1963, putting remarkable items on display such as navy seaplanes, rocket engines, and other aviation artifacts. By 1964, the museum had nearly half a million visitors. Before preparing to move to a larger building in the heart of Balboa Park in 1978, a fire set by two teenagers destroyed the bulk of their exhibits as well as their extensive artifact and archival collections. It was heartbreaking for a non-profit known nationally acclaimed for its aircraft restoration, conservation, and preservation capabilities.

The museum began rebuilding and re-opened in 1980 in the historic Ford Building, followed by a rapid growth in membership, public support, and attendance. The Library and Archives was created to house one of the most extensive collections of aerospace-related books and archival materials in the country including thousands of books, aircraft and equipment manuals, personal and organizational papers, and more than 2 million images and videos of importance to aviation history. The museum opened an annex at Gillespie Field in El Cajon to store additional aircrafts and collection materials.[2]

The goal of the Library & Archives is to “to make the public aware of the quality and depth of the Museum’s photograph collection to encourage further research using original photographic materials.” Making the collection available to the public helps make this possible. The museum’s aircraft and artifact collection can be browed online. The museum possesses over 2 million images of aircraft, aerospace personalities, events, equipment, and places of historical importance to aviation including prints, negatives, and slides. This image collection is currently being digitized. Over 160,000 photographic images with no known copyright restrictions are available to the public via Flikr. The photos are uploaded in low resolution to prevent people from reproducing them for profit or without permission. Yet the museum had admittedly caught people on Ebay and other websites selling image copies. The rest of the image collection is being indexed by staff and volunteers via Microsoft Excel spreadsheets and posted online in pdf format. Licensing fees and permission are required to reproduce, print, photocopy, or use commercially any of the other photos or film in the collections.[3]

The museum’s Archives team is currently digitizing their film and video collection consisting of over 10,000 film and videos relating to aerospace history. The film is made available online via their not-for-profit YouTube channel.[4] Much of the clips include rare footage highlighting local and national aviation and space history, and historic figures such as Charles Lindbergh and Amelia Earhart. Both the digitized and non-digitized collections can be searched online via AeroCat which was launched in 2008, uses MARC format, and is powered by OPAC and EOS International.[5] Users can search the museum’s collection by material type, and browse online exhibits, publications, and photo exhibits.

Researchers are allowed access to the Library and Archives collection during library business hours by appointment. Materials are not loaned out and must be used within the facility. Library and Archives staff and volunteers are available to answer questions via email, mail, or telephone. Some requests require a small research fee. Guidelines exist for researchers while in the archives to protect the collections. The Library & Archives welcomes both monetary donations and donations of aerospace-related items to augment its collections and services.

The Library & Archives are focused on 4 main projects at the moment:

  1. Digitizing the Still & Moving Image Collection
    1. Beginning to digitize the massive collection which has been in development for the last ten years
  2. Improving their Collection Storage
    1. A preservation assessment from preservation, engineering, and facilities specialists
    2. Including the implementation of a more comprehensive preservation plan with the installation of environmental controls and reorganization of collection space
  3. Increasing Online Access
    1. To share the Library & Archives collection to the public online in order to reach a wider and younger audience of aviation enthusiasts and researchers who wouldn’t otherwise have access to the museum
  4. Preserving our Aerospace Heritage
    1. Improving access to the museum’s collections via a $119,700 CLIR Hidden Collections grant to create finding guides for 186 of their personal and corporate special collections
    2. Finding guides with comprehensive catalog listings are currently being posted on the Online Archive of California (OAC) and the National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections (NUCMC); anticipated completion time is January 2015

The Library & Archives has both a 35-page collection policy and a 6-page digital preservation policy. The collection statement contains a museum statement, code of ethics, accessioning (acquisition by-laws), care and conservation, deaccessioning, loan policy, policies regarding access to collections, exhibitions, and policy review.

Further information regarding the Library & Archives can be found on the library blog and library newsletter:

San Diego Air & Space Museum Library Blog – http://sandiegoairandspace.tumblr.com/

San Diego Air & Space Museum Newsletter – http://www.sandiegoairandspace.org/calendar/newsletter.php#library


Technology such as digital imaging and other digital resources as well as improvements in storage capabilities has changed preservation standards but the activities (environmental control, proper storage, disaster planning, reformatting, and conservation standards) within it have remained.[6]

Observations and Recommendations:

  1. Proper Storage:

The Library & Archives has an extensive collection, the third largest of its kind in the United States, but space has been an on-going issue. They have outgrown their basement space several times over. Materials were not organized in the best way, making it harder to retrieve, digitize, catalog, preserve, or perform conservation efforts.

Materials in their collection were spread out among 4 separate locations. According to their 2011 Newsletter, improving storage and preservation became a priority for them within the past several years. Improvements are currently being made as their collection rapidly grows further.

To conform to their preservation goals, the Library & Archives developed a space-saving plan to reorganize their collections from 8 areas spread throughout the museum building to consolidated storage areas on one floor. In a project funded by the Parker Foundation and Las Patronas, various improvements have been made, and more improvements are planned as funding permits. In 2009, the Library & Archives used a $5,000 grant to purchase shelving and preservation supplies including special archival boxes as part of a year-long project to address space issues. The solution was to replace inadequate storage fixtures with space efficient equipment, particularly equipment such as shelving that was taller rather than wider, to utilize vertical space. Space was freed up for library staff and researchers to work.

A portion of the link-in fencing in the Archival Collection Room, also known as the Caged-in Area, was replaced with permanent walls to allow for the installation of climate controls. It was the first step in transforming the area into a state-of-the-art archival storage area. Two mobile storage systems were custom-made and installed. Items could be properly shelved instead of stored in boxes, stacked on top of each other.

Photographs and papers are kept in these or metal boxes to keep them out of direct sunlight or bright light, and protected from moisture. Collections were relocated and consolidated to make the collection more cohesive and manageable. For example, blueprints and drawings that were originally in 4 different locations, Archival files from the Main Library, and the technical manual collection at Lindbergh Field, were brought together in the Archival Collection Room.[7] Improvements to storage conditions are being made and planned for the future even as they continue to take more donations into their collections.

  1. Digitization

Although time consuming and costly, digitizing a library’s materials is important to preservation efforts since materials can deteriorate rapidly. It also allows for better access. The improved organization and retrieval of the Library & Archives’ collections has allowed for them to begin the cataloging and digitization of its valuable materials. It had been a top priority but they hit several roadblocks. They are doing a good job on digitizing their collections in order to preserve the valuable items.

Digitization actually began in 2000 but efforts were slow at first due to limited staff (primarily four volunteers) and a lack of equipment. With the assistance of Balboa Park Online Collaborative (BPOC) and a grant from the Legler Benbough Foundation, they were able to amplify up their digitization efforts.

They purchased high-speed digitization equipment including a rapid capture station with EOS camera, MacBook Pro, and Piction, needed to digitize materials through private donations. The new system could digitize around 600 images per day. Before it would take 10 years to digitize 60,000 images in a regular flatbed scanner. Now with the Rapid Capture Station, 70,000 images can be digitized in one year. Finding guides to search these images are online.

Both photographic images and 16 mm film in their collections are undergoing digitization, starting with the most valuable. Certain materials, without copyright issues, are being made available online to the general public. When they began their project, their two main goals were preservation and accessibility.

It is a long process as the collection includes over 2 million photos, negatives, slides, and transparencies, and several thousand 16 mm films and videos. Items are identified and cataloged then converted to digital files and stored on a hard drive. Metadata is created in-house and added to each file. Comments and tags added by flikr users to each photos (often correcting captions or adding research information) are saved and added to the metadata. The files are backed up on two different servers, courtesy of BCOP. The Library & Archives is planning to eventually purchase Cloud Storage as a back-up but the expense is not within their current budget.

By the beginning of 2011, over 200 books and over 140,000 images were digitized. Over 36,000 images were scanned and uploaded to Flikr in 2013. Currently, there are over 156,000 images uploaded. Film & video is digitized to high definition AVI files via newly purchased equipment which transfers 16mm film to computer servers. The files are then uploaded to YouTube. The Library & Archives does not have the equipment to digitize transparencies or microfilm yet.

  1. Online Catalog & Indexing

The Library & Archives has an extensive collection, much of which isn’t in the online catalog as of yet. But they are in the process of adding items such as film & videos, and photographic images, continuously. About 4,000 films are currently cataloged. Volunteers were undertaking the time consuming tasks of watching the film, identifying, cataloging, and digitizing them. They still are working through the collection and recent additions. The metadata with images and film are not in Aerocat. I thought it was an issue since it wasn’t directly linked in either way, to the index either. Users would have to copy and paste the catalog number or series of catalog numbers instead of clicking it. But it turns out it makes it easier to search. There would be too much information, slowing down the system, and there would be too many search results. For example, if one searched for B-24 planes would bring up 7,000 images. The only thing I found hard to read is the Excel formatting. The Indexes are inconsistent in how they are produced and formatted. The Aircraft Index looks different than the Biographical Image Index and so on. There are different numbers of columns. Sometimes the background is all white, sometimes it is grey and white, etc. In a few of them, there are no column lines and the text is quite small. It may be hard to some to read them. They range from 9 pages to 900 pages, with data continuously being added. Since they are in pdf format, users can search through them via Adobe. They began using EAD format with Archivists’ Toolkit but the new standard may be Archive Space so they are waiting to create further finding guides.

  1. Building issues

The building that currently houses the San Diego Air & Space Museum and its Library & Archives is the historic Ford Building, which was built in 1930s, and held Ford Motor Company’s industrial and automotive exhibitions. It is listed in the San Diego City Historical Sites Register and the National Register of Historic Places. Lack of maintenance and repairs caused the Ford Building to deteriorate during the 1970s. In 1980, renovations began with the plan to move the San Diego Air & Space Museum into the building.[8]

Because it was designated a historic building, renovations had to adhere to special conditions. No major changes could be made to the round building with flat roof.

Due to the age of the building, it lacked an air conditioning system, or existing temperature and humidity controls. Conducting an environmental study as part of their preservation planning study, the San Diego Air & Space Museum monitored the temperature and relative humidity (RH) in the building over a 12-month period between 2008 and 2009. They found there were insufficient ventilation as well high fluctuations in temperature and relative humidity, the effects of which can be detrimental to a library’s collections and lead to deterioration from factors such as moisture and mold. Yet they needed to raise around $360,000 to make all the recommended changes.

To control temperatures, air quality, and humidity, the museum began to install an HVAC system throughout the building, starting with the Film Archives and Book Annex due to the sensitivity of film and photograph negatives. Temperatures were lowered to 60 degrees (+/-2) with 35 percent RH, extending the life of the collection up to 200 years to the Archives, Annex, and 5 other storage collection areas within the building. The cost was around $130,000, the bulk of which came from private donations.

  1. Security

The San Diego Air & Space Museum and its Library & Archives shares the building with each other. Although it isn’t located in public view, Library & Archives can be accessed by anyone with museum admission. It is up a flight of stairs at the rear of the museum, stairs which are roped off. There is no designation or signage for the library facility. It is down a hallway where museum administration and office staff also resides. There is a copier in the hallway that staff and library researchers can use. The main part has two doors, one of which is supposed to be an exit only so visitors enter by the staff desk but both doors are left wide open. There are no security gates. Items in collections are not RFID-tagged. Items do not circulate so there are no barcodes.

The book collection is shelved in open spaces by Dewey Decimal System. The photos are kept in protective sleeves and shelved in filing cabinets along the wall. However, the cabinets are kept locked so staff must assist visitors. According to guidelines, researchers must present identification. I wasn’t asked to present identification at either the front museum entrance or at the library doors. But they may have made an exception for me.

There is no sign-in sheet at the staff desk which is in a three walled cubicle with large table in front, and brochures and flyers stacked on the counter, partially obstructing the view to the visitors using materials on the two large tables in the center of the room. The lack of space in the area is an issue. Yet a re-organization and installation of better furniture including shelving and workspace would be a suitable improvement.

The Film & Video and other special collections are in better and more secure conditions. The rooms can only be entered by taking an elevator, which requires a key, to the basement. Although maintenance and museum workers have their break-rooms and work stations there, the rooms to the archives themselves are protected behind locked doors. Items within are not RFID tagged and there are no security gates but the locked doors seem sufficient for now.


Special thank you to Alan Renga, Archivist and Debbie Seracini, Assistant Archivist – San Diego Air & Space Museum Library & Archives

[1] Research Overview: http://www.sandiegoairandspace.org/research/

[2] About the museum: http://www.sandiegoairandspace.org/about_the_museum/

[3] Image Collection: http://www.sandiegoairandspace.org/collections/collection_index.php?id=3

[4] Sdasmarchives YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/sdasmarchives

[5] Film & Audio Collection: http://www.sandiegoairandspace.org/collections/collection_index.php?id=4

[6] Preservation 101: http://unfacilitated.preservation101.org/session1/expl_whatis-technologies.asp

[7] 2011 Newsletter Issue: http://www.sandiegoairandspace.org/calendar/researcher_news/lib_news_06.pdf

[8] 2010 SDASM Newsletter: http://www.sandiegoairandspace.org/calendar/researcher_news/lib_news_04.pdf