RIVERSIDE — The National Museum of the United States Air Force has installed the latest portion of the “Women in the Air Force” exhibit, a project that is expected to be completed in early 2021. The latest display, titled “Women in Combat” and curated by Krista Dunkman, tells the stories of female fighter pilots, flight nurses, and women who served the nation in other capacities throughout history.
With the official completion of the Women in Combat display on Tuesday, the museum is officially at the halfway point of installing the exhibit, which will become a permanent part of the Air Force museum.
“Mothers would come up to me and say ‘What can I show my daughter about women in the Air Force?’ ” said museum Director David Tillotson.
Now, parents have plenty of stories at the museum to show their little girls.
Each new exhibit is decked out in a vibrant orange that, as Tillotson puts it, “is both visually arresting and evokes the same color as a sunrise.” Previously existing exhibits that were dedicated to female military members (such as the WASP display in the Early Years gallery) will also be marked with the same color.
One such installation near the Cold War gallery depicts a timeline of women’s exploits winding its way across the floor, through the silhouettes of female service members who broke barriers during their lives.
Among other things, the newest exhibit includes the flight suits of the first 10 female pilots who attended undergraduate pilot training, from 1977-2008. In 1975, then-Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David C. Jones, announced the launch of a test program that would enable women to enter pilot training and staff the all-volunteer force formed after the abolition of the draft. On Sept. 26, 1976, those 10 women joined flight school along their 35 male counterparts for the first time in history.
The design team for “Women in the Air Force” was led by museum Design Specialist Luke Maynard. Curator Jennifer Blankinship led the research efforts, and Dunkman curated the artifacts for the displays.
The conceptual work on the exhibit had started in the spring, and production began in earnest over the summer. Tillotson said his team had hoped the exhibit would be complete by the end of calendar year 2020, but he expects all the exhibits will be fully ready by January 2021. An official ribbon cutting is expected to take place in March 2021.
This year marks the 100 year anniversary of the 19th amendment, a legislative victory that granted women the right to vote. The 2020 centennial served as the inspiration for “Women in the Air Force.”
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