Exhibition | Clouds in a Bag
Late eighteenth-century fan showing three images of the first hydrogen balloon, flown by J. A. C. Charles and M. N. Robert in 1783. The sticks are carved Mother of Pearl (Evelyn Way Kendall Collection, National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution, WEB14851-2015).
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Press release (24 January 2017) from the National Air and Space Museum:
Clouds in a Bag: The Evelyn Way Kendall Ballooning and Early Aviation Collection
The Udvar-Hazy Center, Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, Chantilly, Virginia, 28 January 2017 — 2018
Curated by Tom Crouch
The Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum opened the exhibition Clouds in a Bag: The Evelyn Way Kendall Ballooning and Early Aviation Collection on January 28 at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, in Chantilly, Virgnia. This is the first time these early aviation artifacts are on public display since the Smithsonian acquired the collection in 2014.
When the first balloon rose over the rooftops of Paris in the late 18th century, enormous crowds gathered to watch. This phenomenon spurred a new age of aeronauts dreaming of what else could fly. The excitement of this achievement was captured much like it would be today—in artwork and on memorabilia. Objects such as decorative fans, china, snuff boxes, and prints will be on display. Clouds in a Bag explores the fascination of the first balloon flights through these pieces.
“The invention of the balloon struck the men and women of the late 18th century like a thunderbolt,” said Tom Crouch, senior curator of aeronautics at the National Air and Space Museum. “After centuries of dreaming, we were airborne at last! Visitors to the exhibition will be able to share some of the excitement experienced by those who watched the first aerial travelers rise into the sky.”
The exhibition includes 51 prints, paintings and drawings, and 35 examples of 18th- and 19th-century memorabilia. This is a small portion of the collection of over 1,000 pieces in the Evelyn Way Kendall Ballooning and Early Aviation Collection, donated to the museum by the Norfolk Charitable Trust in 2014. The Norfolk Charitable Trust also supported the processing, conservation, and exhibition of the collection. Clouds in a Bag will be open through 2018.
The National Air and Space Museum building on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., is located at Sixth Street and Independence Avenue S.W. The museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center is located in Chantilly, Virgnia, near Washington Dulles International Airport. Attendance at both buildings combined was 9 million in 2016, making it the most-visited museum in America.