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Air Force Museum prepares for Kettering model collection’s return

Eugene W. Kettering Model Aircraft Collection (National Museum of the United States Air Force/Released)

The Eugene W. Kettering Model Aircraft Collection will return to the National Museum of the United States Air Force following the collection’s removal in 2022.

The Air Force Museum has announced they are crafting a completely new case for the 624-piece collection, which is planned to open in spring or summer of 2025.

The collection was owned by local philanthropist Eugene W. Kettering. Kettering was a General Motors employee for nearly 30 years who later became the first chairman of the Air Force Museum Foundation in 1960. At the time, the foundation existed to fund and build the museum itself, which opened in 1971. One of the ways Kettering supported the museum’s creation was the loaning of his personal collection of model aircraft, which could be seen in the hallway between the second and third buildings.

The models were on display to visualize the history of aircraft and aviation. With models ranging in size from 4 inches to 3 feet, over 10 countries are represented with military and civilian aircraft. All the models were handcrafted from wood and some were built as far back as the 1930s.

In addition, the models were on display for over 50 years, but by the 2020s, it was apparent a number of models were starting to deteriorate. To fully asses the damages, the Air Force Museum conducted a full assessment of the collection’s condition in 2022.

“The models on exhibit were showing signs of light damage with fading and discoloration of the painted surfaces, especially where there was red paint” said Jennifer Myers, objects conservator for the museum. “The assessment found that many of the models showed signs of paint cracking or chipping. This is due to the models being constructed primarily of wood.”

The museum decided the collection must be taken off display for a full conservation of the models. Instead of completing the project in-house, the Air Force Museum contracted the Intermuseum Conservation Association, or ICA, to conserve the collection.

After the collection was carefully shipped to the ICA in Cleveland, the Air Force Museum concluded the models needed to be placed in a new area upon their return. It was decided the collection would be housed in a new, purpose-built display case to be housed in Kettering Hall. The new location will have better humidity control and lighting to make sure the collection is preserved for future generations. This entire project was made possible by the Air Force Museum Foundation.


What: National Museum of the U.S. Air Force

Where: 1100 Spaatz St., Dayton

Hours: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Daily

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