The Smithsonian Air & Space Museum has quite the extensive collective of rare and interesting aircraft, and perhaps some of of you have been lucky enough to see them in person. But did you know they also have a great many aviation and space related artifacts, many of which are not on display? Lucky, much of what the Air & Space has, even the archived collections, is available for perusal via their website. Since I know how much everyone hates to spend hours clicking through the myriad pages of the web looking at interesting things, I thought that I would start showcasing some of what is there, in semi-organized posts. First up is the Fly Now! collection of aviation related posters. There are nearly 1300 posters in this collection, ranging from advertising dating to the first early days of aviation all the way up through the modern era. And for the number one post out of this collection, enjoy these Coca-Cola advertising prints of WWII aircraft.
Since this is the initial post out of this collection, here is the Smithsonian’s description of the set.
Throughout their history, posters have been a significant means of mass communication, often with striking visual effect. Wendy Wick Reaves, the Smithsonian Portrait Gallery Curator of Prints and Drawings, comments that “sometimes a pictorial poster is a decorative masterpiece-something I can’t walk by without a jolt of aesthetic pleasure. Another might strike me as extremely clever advertising … But collectively, these ‘pictures of persuasion,’ as we might call them, offer a wealth of art, history, design, and popular culture for us to understand. The poster is a familiar part of our world, and we intuitively understand its role as propaganda, promotion, announcement, or advertisement.”
Reaves’ observations are especially relevant for the impressive array of aviation posters in the National Air and Space Museum’s 1300+ artifact collection. Quite possibly the largest publicly-held collection of its kind in the United States, the National Air and Space Museum’s posters focus primarily on advertising for aviation-related products and activities. Among other areas, the collection includes 19th-century ballooning exhibition posters, early 20th-century airplane exhibition and meet posters, and twentieth-century airline advertisements.
The posters in the collection represent printing technologies that include original lithography, silkscreen, photolithography, and computer-generated imagery. The collection is significant both for its aesthetic value and because it is a unique representation of the cultural, commercial and military history of aviation. The collection represents an intense interest in flight, both public and private, during a significant period of its technological and social development.
As a side note, here are the guidelines for copyright and use of these works:
Copyright Disclosure for Orphaned Works
Whenever possible, the museum provides factual information about copyright owners and related matters in its records and other texts related to the collections. For many of the images in this collection, some of which were created for or by corporate entities that no longer exist, the museum does not own any copyrights. Therefore, it generally does not grant or deny permission to copy, distribute or otherwise use material in this collection. If identified, permission and possible fees may be required from the copyright owner independently of the museum. It is the user’s obligation to determine and satisfy copyright or other use restrictions when copying, distributing or otherwise using materials found in the museum’s collections. Transmission or reproduction of protected materials beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Users must make their own assessments of rights in light of their intended use.
I am operating under the premise that showing off these images for non-commercial purposes is acceptable under fair use, so enjoy!
Images all from Fly Now!