NASM Space Suit Collection X-Ray Photography
Digitized Content

Summary
Collection ID:
NASM.2015.0055
Dates:
bulk 2007-2008
Languages:
English
.
Physical Description:
1.53 Cubic feet
Two 17 x 23 x 3 inch flat boxes
Repository:
This collection consists of x-ray film radiographs made in 2008 by conservator Roland H. "Ron" Cunningham, of the Museum Conservation Institute (MCI), Smithsonian Institution, of 17 artifacts in the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum (NASM) space suit collection, and derivative digital images created by photographer Mark Avino, Chief of Photographic Services, NASM Office of Communications, by scanning the radiographs on a flatbed graphic film scanner and compositing the resulting scans into digital image files.

Scope and Contents
Scope and Contents
The first series of this collection consists of 17 x 14 inch x-ray film radiographs made in 2007 and 2008 by conservator Roland H. "Ron" Cunningham, of the Museum Conservation Institute (MCI), Smithsonian Institution, of 17 artifacts in the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum (NASM) space suit collection. There are just over 100 radiographs; exposed films from multiple-film exposures which did not have sufficient overlap were retained in the collection, but were not scanned and used in the creation of composite digital images ("discarded" films). The second series consists of 33 unique derivative negative digital images created by photographer Mark Avino, then Chief of Photographic Services, NASM Office of Communications, by scanning the radiographs on a flatbed graphic film scanner and compositing the resulting scans into high-resolution digital image files.

Arrangement
Arrangement
The 17 x 14 inch film radiographs in the first series are grouped by artifact, with the folders appearing in artifact number order. Discarded radiographs appear in a separate folder at the end of the series. The digital images in the second series are also arranged by artifact number, but have been grouped into three subseries based on the number of film sheets used to x-ray each artifact: one, three, or fifteen. Digital images for each artifact include the original half-sheet or quarter-sheet film radiograph scans as well as the completed composite image, usually presented in both negative and positive versions. Each of the completed composite digital radiograph (negative) images was assigned a NASM Photographic Services image reference number. In the case of the full space suit images, each positive version of the completed negative composite image was assigned a separate NASM Photographic Services image reference number.

Biographical / Historical
Biographical / Historical
As part of its holdings documenting the history of aviation and space exploration, the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum (NASM) has a collection of over 1,000 space suits, pressure suits, and suit components (gloves, boots, and helmets); this collection includes early developmental suits and suits used during training and testing as well as most of the space suits worn during the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo missions. Despite the fact the the suits were designed to be robust enough to withstand the dangers of orbital and lunar space operations for the duration of a space flight mission, the suits themselves are extremely fragile. Each suit is constructed of an assortment of natural and man-made materials and metals, and the lifespan of many of the components was not well understood when the suits were first assembled. Most of the space suits from the early United States space programs have deteriorated to the point where they are no longer able to be displayed.
Help arrived in May 1999 when NASM was awarded a Save America's Treasures grant by the White House Millenium Council and the US Department of the Interior's Save America's Treasures Program for a proposal to preserve the "Threatened Artifacts of the Apollo Program." The first part of the grant was for the Apollo space suits (with matching funds provided by Hamilton Sundstrand); the second part was for the preservation of the Saturn V launch vehicle in Houston. In January 2000, the NASM Division of Space History (DSH) began work on an interdisciplinary project to preserve the Apollo era space suits in the NASM collection and to share the results of its research on the deterioration and preservation of space suits with other museums. The project soon grew to encompass all the suits and components then in the museum's collections, and in 2007 and 2008 Amanda Young, the NASM DSH museum specialist then responsible for the collection of space suits and astronaut personal equipment, worked with conservator Roland H. "Ron" Cunningham, of the Smithsonian's Museum Conservation Institute (MCI), and photographer Mark Avino, then Chief of Photographic Services, NASM Office of Communications, to create radiographs (x-ray images) of 17 artifacts in the space suit collection.
Smaller artifacts such as gloves, helmets, and other suit parts were each imaged on a single sheet of film; one larger artifact (the RX-1 Arm) was imaged on three sheets of film overlapped to create a single image. The four space suits (pressure suits) featured in this collection were each imaged by overlapping 15 sheets of x-ray film to form a continuous 3 x 5 sheet grid on a 4 x 8 foot backing board, arranging the suit on top of the film sheets, and positioning the x-ray equipment high enough to allow a single, simultaneous exposure of all 15 sheets. The circular edges of the x-ray exposure can be seen at the top and bottom of some of the full-suit image radiographs, but most of the final composite digital images have been modified by Avino to appear with a continuous background.

Administration
Processing Information
Arranged, described, and encoded by Melissa A. N. Keiser, 2021.
Author
Melissa A. N. Keiser
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Mark Avino, Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum Photographic Services, Transfer, 2015, NASM.2015.0055.

Digital Content
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Bibliography
Bibliography
Amanda Young made use of eight radiographs from this collection in her book
Spacesuits: The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum Collection
(PowerHouse Books; Brooklyn, NY), published just before her retirement in June 2009.
See related NASM Blog Post by photographer Mark Avino, A Blending of Photography and X-Ray; posted November 12, 2010.

Using the Collection
Conditions Governing Use
Material is subject to Smithsonian Terms of Use. Should you wish to use NASM material in any medium, please submit an Application for Permission to Reproduce NASM Material, available at Permissions Requests.
Conditions Governing Access
No restrictions on access
Preferred Citation
NASM Space Suit Collection X-Ray Photography, Acc. NASM.2015.0055, National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution.

Keywords
Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Astronautics Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Space suits Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Radiographs Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Digital images Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

Repository Contact
National Air and Space Museum Archives
14390 Air & Space Museum Parkway
Chantilly, VA 20151
NASMRefDesk@si.edu
https://airandspace.si.edu/archives