Iconic aviator, aviation record-holder, and author Amelia Earhart is celebrated in her hometown of Atchison, Kansas, with a birthplace museum, life-size statues, an annual festival, and an acre embankment portrait.
But starting April 14, 2023, another major Earhart attraction lands in Atchison: the Amelia Earhart Hangar Museum located, appropriately enough, by Atchison Amelia Earhart Memorial Airport.
The centerpiece and inspiration for the museum is Muriel, among the world’s last remaining Lockheed Electra 10-E aircraft. Named after Amelia Earhart’s younger sister, Grace Muriel, the museum’s Lockheed Electra is identical to the aircraft Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan were flying in 1937 when they disappeared during their ill-fated attempt around the world flight.
Earhart’s plane was a dull silver with red painted and shiny highlights Muriel replicate the red along the front of the wings.
The restored and airworthy aircraft is impressive to behold. But it’s the 14 STEM-inspired interactive exhibit areas and surrounding activity stations Muriel which will not only entertain visitors for hours but offer layers of educational experiences on history, culture, science, technology, engineering, math and more.
During a recent RGN preview visit, we first learned about physics and history at the ‘Pioneering Spirit’ station which tells the story of how 7-year-old Amelia Earhart built her own roller coaster after seeing one at the 1904 World’s Fair in St . Louis.
A working model of a roller coaster is visible, and visitors can use a screen to apply their engineering skills to their own roller coaster and get feedback on its design. (Ours failed).
We next looked closely at one of Amelia Earhart’s framed school reports (she did well in reading and geography) and then scrolled through scanned images from her mechanics journals, which include Earhart’s handwritten notes.
Afterward, we posed for a photo and let augmented reality show us what we would look like in clothes related to some of Earhart’s many careers, including mechanic, nurse, pilot, and fashion designer.
At other stations we learned about the power and parts of “then and now” airplane engines and tried to fit into the full-scale replica of by Muriel cockpit to experience the small airspace that Earhart described as his “flying laboratory.” Earhart was 5’8” tall and had to be very snug.
Kansas-based experience design firm Dimensional innovations (DI) created the exhibits with STEM education and accessibility in mind, and each station features hands-on and/or gamified experiences, digital media, and inclusive cutting-edge technology. This includes Amelia Earhart’s computer-generated welcome video and interactive stations where visitors are challenged to pack the aircraft with essential, but not too heavy, items and to compete to correctly install some of the thousands of rivets required by the aircraft .
In the “Above the Clouds” section of the museum which explores the role of celestial navigation, radio waves and atmospheric conditions in air navigation, visitors can learn about some of the many theories about what could have happened to Earhart and Noonan during that botched flight on world and then vote on which scenario seems more likely.
Finally, after learning about Amelia Earhart’s life and remarkable achievements, and all the STEM-related skills she needed to study, master, and use in her flights and in her life, visitors to the Amelia Earhart Hanger Museum can listen to taped tapes of some of his news interviews, and experience flying a virtual reality flight in Earhart’s red Lockheed Vega 5B that presents the same challenges (bad weather, mechanical issues, etc.) that Earhart faced during her 15-hour flight on May 20-21, 1932 when she became the first woman to fly non-stop and solo across the Atlantic.
The Amelia Earhart Hangar Museum in Atchison, Kansas will open on Friday, April 14. Pre-opening “Beta” visits can be scheduled now.
All images credited to Dimensional Innovations/The Amelia Earhart Hangar Museum