74. ‘Houston, We Have A Restoration’ with Sandra Tetley

Welcome to Museum Archipelago in Your Inbox, which does exactly what it says on the tin. Museum Archipelago, your podcast guide to the rocky landscape of museums, is hosted by me, Ian Elsner.

Every time an Apollo astronaut said the word Houston, they were referring not just to a city, but a specific room in that city: Mission Control. In that room on July 20, 1969, NASA engineers answered radio calls from the surface of the moon. Sitting in front of rows of green consoles, cigarettes in hand, they guided humans safely back to earth, channeling the efforts of the thousands and thousands of people who worked on the program through one room.

But until recently, that room was kind of a mess. After hosting Gemini, Apollo, Skylab, and Shuttle missions through 1992, the room hosted retirement parties, movie screenings, and the crumbs that came with them.

Spurred by the deadline of the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 in 2019, the room was carefully restored with a new visitor experience. The restoration project focused on accurately portraying how the area looked at key moments during that mission, right down to the ashtrays and soda cans. In this episode, Sandra Tetley, Historic Preservation Officer at the Johnson Space Center, describes the ups and downs of restoring the Apollo Mission Control Center.

“I realized the value of this room to American history and to the world history. It's one of the most significant sites on earth.” - Sandra Tetley

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Read the Plaque

In this week's episode, Tetley describes what it meant that the Apollo Mission Control Center was unprotected. But while there is a process to protect human heritage on earth, there isn't one for human heritage sites off of the earth.

In episode 32 of Museum Archipelago, space lawyer Michelle Hanlon describes a legal framework to protect the Apollo landing sites on the lunar surface. We also speculate about what a lunar museum might look like.

“Those footsteps are still there, untouched. And that footstep is like humankind's first step walking erect. It has to be saved. Because when my grandchildren are on the moon on the way to deep space, I want them to see those footsteps and think, wow, look how far we've come.” - Michelle Hanlon

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Archipelago at the Movies 🎟️: Lisa the Iconoclast (1996)

Our Archipelago at the Movies series continues as we dissect Season 7, Episode 16 of the Simpsons, Lisa the Iconoclast.

Even though the episode came out in 1996, it feels surprisingly relevant to today’s museum landscape, as Lisa discovers that the local historical society is propping up her town’s founding myth for the benefit of those in power. Special guest Rebecca Reebsteen joins me to dive deep into this fascinating episode of the Simpsons for anyone who thinks critically about museums.

This episode of Archipelago at the Movies is available now, exclusively to Club Archipelago members.

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