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Guest Speaker Talks to Library Group

Senior curator at the National Air and Space Museum graces Burke Centre Library meeting.

The Friends of the Burke Centre Library were delighted to take a short flight through space and aviation history, at the organization’s annual meeting, Thursday, April 27.

“For this friends group, when we have annual meetings we like to have a draw,” said Patricia Riedinger, president of Friends of the Burke Centre Library.

The Friends of the Burke Centre Library is a group in the community “dedicated to the support, promotion and enhancement of the new Burke Centre Library," which will hold its groundbreaking ceremony July 29. Thirteen people, most of them members, gathered to hear the senior curator at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, Tom Crouch, speak about aviation and Fairfax County.

Crouch, a 32-year resident of the county, said historical resources and information are available locally, particularly at the county’s Virginia Room at the Fairfax City Regional Library branch, that cannot be found in the Smithsonian or elsewhere.

“You’d be surprised at how many things the Fairfax County Library has that the Smithsonian doesn’t have,” said Crouch. “This is a county that’s rich in writers.”

Crouch told anecdotal stories about his earlier years as an employee at the museum, and said he missed his predecessor, Paul Edwin Garber. Crouch attributes the existence of the entire museum to Garber, since Crouch said Garber personally worked on obtaining specialty aviation items to showcase there.

“Paul begged, borrowed and stole anything he could get his hands on,” said Crouch. ”I still sometimes expect to see him at his desk when I walk in.”

According to Crouch, the museum is the most visited museum in the world because of the amount of items it has collected throughout the years.

“I think it’s because of the extraordinary amount of real things we have,” said Crouch. “There aren’t many museums that can show you the number of really important first objects. For a historian, it’s a fun place to work,” said Crouch.”

AFTER ENTERTAINING the group with historical facts about aviation and the museum, Crouch talked briefly about his latest novel, “Wings: A History of Aviation from Kites to the Space Age.” About 20 copies of the book were on sale at the meeting for $18.95, which nearly all attendees purchased at the end of the meeting.

“It’s sort of a one volume history on the subject of flying machines,” said Crouch.

A short question and answer session opened up following Crouch’s talk. Luanne Smith worked with Crouch on a 1995 Smithsonian exhibit and came to the meeting just to see her old colleague. The two spoke about Enola Gay, the warplane that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Smith asked if the museum would try to do another exhibit like the one the two had worked on 11 years ago. That exhibit was canceled before it opened, since Smith said a bunch of pro-nuke right-wingers canceled it.

“The World War II generation is dying off, and there needs to be more education about this important event,” said Smith.