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Smithsonian curator to speak at Kauffman Museum

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – This spring’s Sunday-Afternoon-at-the-Museum event at Kauffman Museum on the Bethel College campus will feature a long-time curator at the Smithsonian Institution.

Von Hardesty, a curator in the Aeronautics Division of the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., will present “A Bogus Artifact at the Smithsonian” at Kauffman Museum April 1 at 3:30 p.m.

The “Milestones” gallery of the National Air and Space Museum features the Wright Brothers’ Flyer, Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis, John Glenn’s Freedom 7, Apollo 11 and one replica – the Sputnik artificial satellite. Hardesty will look back at the story of the “real” Sputnik, which the Soviet Union launched 50 years ago this coming October 4.

Some historians have suggested that Sputnik also launched the space race between the USSR and the United States. Only after Sputnik did the U.S. Congress appropriate the money to begin NASA and to support defense-related educational programs.

Hardesty joined the Smithsonian in 1979 after eight years teaching history at Ohio Wesleyan University in Delaware, Ohio, and Bluffton (Ohio) University, where he received his undergraduate degree. He earned his doctorate in Russian history at Ohio State University.

Hardesty is curator for the national Air and Space Museum’s Black Wings exhibit on African Americans and aerospace history, and for all Soviet aircraft in the Smithsonian collections. He is also coordinator for an oral history program funded by the Aviation Space Writers Foundation.

During his time at the Smithsonian, Hardesty has published widely on aviation themes, from an award-winning biography of Charles Lindbergh to a classic study of Soviet air power in World War II. His next book, Edward Steichen and the Birth of Aerial Reconnaissance, will be published by Cambridge University Press in 2008. Hardesty is currently working on a new book for the National Geographic Society on the space race.

Hardesty also has a personal interest in vintage cars and engines and this past fall published a two-part story in V-8 Times on the 1935 Bethel College choir’s tour to western Canada and the western United States, for which they drove a 1935 Ford bus.

Hardesty is spending March 2007 in residence at the University of Kansas, Lawrence, as the Simons Public Humanities Fellow at the Hall Center, where he is exploring how Sputnik compelled Americans to reexamine assumptions about the superiority of American technology.

The April 1 lecture is free and open to the public. Kauffman Museum is located on the Bethel College campus at 27th and Main in North Newton.

Regular museum hours are 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, and 1:30-4:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. The museum is closed on Mondays and major holidays. Admission to the museum, which also includes admission to the permanent exhibits “Of Land and People,” “Mirror of the Martyrs” and “Mennonite Immigrant Furniture,” is $3 for adults and $1.50 for children ages 6-16. More information is available by calling the museum at 316-283-1612 or visiting its Web site,

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