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About the Project

The centennial of World War I has strengthened and renewed scholarly interest in all aspects of the war and its effects on our world. The war started a mere eleven years after the Wright Brothers took their first flight at Kitty Hawk and in a single decade, aviation technology advanced enough that aircraft and the pilots that flew them became an essential aspect of warfare. Collections related to the technical aspects of WWI-era flying and aircraft, as well as the personal effects and ephemera of WWI pilots, are an invaluable resource for documenting the history of the war.

With this scholarly interest in mind, the Archives Team at The Museum of Flight used a Digitizing Hidden Collections grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) with funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to create online access to the Museum's World War I archival materials. This project, completed in 2017, makes finding aids to nearly 50 collections and digital copies of more than 4,000 items (made up of more than 10,000 individual scans) widely available. The completion of the project is not only a timely commemoration of the anniversary of the U.S.'s entry into the war, but makes available new resources on the history of aviation during the war that will help deepen our understanding and appreciation of the people who built and flew aircraft during this time period.

The World War I collections at The Museum of Flight cover both the technical aspects of flight and the personal experiences of the individuals flying the aircraft. They are the personal collections of pilots that uniquely illustrate their individual wartime experience and tell stories of their triumphs and hardships, most of which have never been told before. The materials range from scrapbooks and letters from residents of the Pacific Northwest to photographs and military documents of nationally renowned flyers; from technical documentation regarding the aircraft to the personal diaries of the daring airmen who piloted these early military planes. 

This digitization project has also been endorsed as an official project by the World War I Centennial Commission.

Council on Library and Information Resources