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Restoration of Museum Aircraft

20 July 2022

Restoring Museum Aircraft, Robert Mikesh, 1997, ISBN 1 85310 875 8, 218 pp.

Restoring Museum Aircraft by Robert Mikesh

Many of us have seen aircraft displayed in museums. A handful of aircraft. Dozens of aircraft. Hundreds of  aircraft. Aircraft of vastly different types, ages, uses and countries of origin. Except for flying, they appear to have little in common with each other. Just think about it. How would you compare a Fokker Triplane to a Supermarine Spitfire to one of the Space Shuttles? Wings and engines yes—but different wings, structures, manufacturing and powerplant designs.

There is one thing these marvelous, historical or inspirational machines have in common. They have been restored. Restored as if better-than-new to simply maintained but they all have gotten care in a museum. Restorers should get credit but they rarely do, those people who lovingly labor in the museum backrooms or museum service buildings. 

And who better than Robert Mikesh to write about what they do and how they do it in his Restoring Museum Aircraft? For 21 years Mikesh curated for the National Air & Space Museum (NASM). Yes, for over two decades he oversaw acquisition and restoration of almost more aircraft than can be counted. Not only that, but before he curated at the NASM he flew aircraft while serving in the U.S. Air Force and became expert in the aviation history of Japan, as well.

Restoring Museum Aircraft has what you would expect to see addressed, of course, but you would be right in expecting more. And there is more! Roles of curators and restorers to collection and restoration decisions. Mikesh continues to documenting the teardown, materials, propulsion—even tires and more. Much more.

Mikesh’s Restoring Museum Aircraft is a fascinating and insightful book which is chock full of color images showing specific aircraft examples to illustrate points in the book. The photos are in detailed color and are fantastically intimate as readers see aircraft as few ever see them—disassembled, without paint and missing parts (away for fabrication or restoration). Restoring Museum Aircraft has a section of appendices to drool over—all eight of them—each its own treasure trove of vital information.

This book is a natural for the curator as well as the restoration expert of nearly any speciality. It is also a book for those who appreciate looking behind the curtain, those with curiosity for insight, those who like to know not only why an aircraft is there but how it got there. 

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