Just down the road from the Virginia Air and Space Museum is the Virginia Air Power Park. This has some similarities to the Air and Space Museum and some differences. First, since it is also close to the Air Force and NASA facilities, it shares the access to some interesting exhibits. Therefore, there are some very interesting aircraft on display. This includes an XV-6 Kestrel from NASA, just like the Air and Space Museum. Strange that such a rare aircraft should have two on display in such close proximity!
The differences are more pronounced. It is an outdoor exhibition and decidedly less glamorous. Getting funding to look after the aircraft is a continuing issue for the team there and they are working hard at it. Some of the aircraft are repainted but others a in need of a new coat when they can get it. Since everything is outdoors, I imagine that the preservation task is a more difficult one. We were there on a rather grey day. It had been raining heavily and was still cloudy and dull while we were there. Some of the aircraft were standing in large puddles which can’t be good for them.
None of this is meant to be critical of the team. That they are doing what they can to keep these aircraft on display is great but it must be a struggle to make sure that they are not going to rot away. Not only are there aircraft but also some interesting missile and some rockets from the space program’s test activities. They also have some capsule hardware from test activities.
There is a building at the park as well which currently contains a wide selection of models of different aircraft, ships and spacecraft. Again, if you are passing by, I would recommend you pay it a visit but you might need to make sure you have some shoes that don’t mind puddles!
Located in Hampton Virginia is the Virginia Air and Space Museum. Hayman and I checked it out as part of our tour of local museums. I had been warned by Liza that everything inside was pretty crowded and she certainly wasn’t wrong about that but more of that later. The museum is a very modern looking facility with glazing at both end walls allowing lots of light inside. That also makes for a few problems with the levels of contrast between parts of the building but I doubt they planned it based on the needs of photographers!
In fact, they really didn’t. The building has a great collection of aircraft. The close proximity to NASA facilities has obviously been helpful in getting access to some pretty unusual exhibits. The Apollo 14 Command Module is on display as is the HARV F/A-18 Hornet, a research F-106 and an XV-6 Kestrel among many other interesting airframes. They even have an MMU from the Space Shuttle program (although getting a shot of it from the moving elevator was tricky). The result of all of these exhibits is that they have to be squeezed in. They are usually suspended from the ceiling which makes them look more dynamic. However, they do tend to overlap a lot.
This isn’t a problem if you are visiting to see everything which is, after all, the purpose of the museum. It does, however, make getting photos a bit more tricky. I ended up using a combination of lenses. A wide angle zoom and a fisheye zoom were the two I chose. The fish is a lens that viewers can tire of quickly but, in this case, it was a case of trying to get unobstructed shots where possible. It also let me try a few odd angles for fun too!
While not a museum I would go back to repeatedly, this was certainly a good place to visit. I might go back one more time with some new ideas about how to shoot certain things but even that might require the cooperation of the management! If you are passing and have a couple of hours, do pay it a visit.
As our day exploring was running down, we made one diversion from the center of Hampton to Fort Monroe. Up until last year, this was apparently still an active military facility. Now it has been vacated by the military and is open to access. The feeling of the place is still very clearly that of a military base, even if the large number of troops are no longer there. It is also plainly very old.
At the center of the Fort is an old Victorian style structure with massive stone walls and a moat. There are a few entrances you can drive through and inside is the heart of the fort. It appears that the housing has been turned over to people now so, while it is quiet, it isn’t deserted. I have no idea who the housing now belongs to but it is certainly interesting to drive around.
Outside the main fortifications are plenty of other buildings. These include gun emplacements as well as some very nice high end housing. As you drive around you come to some nice houses that you assume must be for the senior officers. Only as you come around the next corner and see even bigger houses do you realize that the really senior officers must have been there. Indeed, as we walked along looking at the buildings, one of the residents came out and said hello. She told us that this was Generals’ Row while the other houses were Colonels’ Row. I am guessing the enlisted guys did not see much of this area.
The access to the shore means that plenty of people come to the piers to fish or to walk along the beach. I have no idea what the future holds for this place but it certainly is worth a diversion if you are in the area to see something that is a bit frozen in time – at least for now.