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To celebrate NASA’s 50th anniversary, the Figge Art Museum in Davenport, Iowa, will host a three-month exhibit of NASA-commissioned art, NASA | ART: 50 Years of Exploration, and a companion display of spaceflight instruments and models designed and built at the Department of Physics and Astronomy in the University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
The department led investigations of the upper atmosphere and magnetosphere under the direction of James Van Allen, and UI scientists since have built instruments flown on more than 60 space missions.
Professor and department chair Mary Hall Reno and staff member Kathy Kurth, along with UI Libraries Special Collections and Archives, were eager to help coordinate the display. “These historic instruments aren’t normally available for people to walk in and view,” notes Kurth. “We’re grateful for the chance to make them accessible to the public.”
“We’re always trying to find ways to collaborate with other institutions,” says Rima Girnius, associate curator for the Figge. “And since the University of Iowa has always been at the forefront of space research, we couldn’t pass up this opportunity.”
Alongside 72 paintings, drawings, photographs, and sculptures by such artists as Annie Leibovitz, Norman Rockwell, Andy Warhol, and Jamie Wyeth, visitors to the museum can view 11 spaceflight instruments associated with the missions referenced by the art.
The UI instruments include a spare Rockoon (a rocket-borne instrument launched by Van Allen in 1953); a spare of the UI instrument flown on the first successful U.S. satellite, Explorer 1; a spare of the UI-built Hawkeye satellite; and models of the currently operating Juno and Cassini spacecraft.
Exhibiting the spaceflight instruments alongside the artwork they made possible reinforces, says Girnius, “the connection between science and art.” The exhibit will also feature a music production by the Kronos Quartet based on sounds of space gathered by Don Gurnett, UI professor of physics and astronomy.
The exhibits will run from July 14 to Oct. 7. For more information and a schedule of accompanying events and activities, visit www.figgeartmuseum.org or call 563-326-7804.