New Time and Navigation Exhibit Is in the Works at the Smithsonian

June 30, 2009
News Release

For centuries, nations have invested enormous resources to determine time and place for geopolitical reasons, and their research has changed people’s view of the world. Advanced technology that was once available only to the military has become commonplace and downloadable to cell phones. Instead of stopping at the gas station to ask for directions, drivers can now consult their car’s GPS system.

A new exhibition, tentatively titled “Time and Navigation: From Chronometers to GPS” will explore the cultural and technological aspects of precise timekeeping and orientation. This project will be a unique collaboration between two of the Smithsonian’s largest and most popular museums: the National Air and Space Museum and the National Museum of American History.

Highlights of the exhibit will include a walk-through 19th-century sailing vessel, a submarine navigation center, navigation satellites, aircraft and a robotic vehicle. This exhibit will span three centuries and explore efforts to travel beyond Earth and through the solar system. It will draw parallels between the basic human desire to experience new environments and societal efforts to discover distant worlds.

Preliminary work on the exhibition, which is expected to open in the fall of 2012 at the National Air and Space Museum, is possible due to a $1 million donation from Northrop Grumman Corp., as the Major Sponsor, and $500,000 from the ITT Corp. Additional support is expected from aerospace and government sources. 

“The commitments from Northrop Grumman Corporation and ITT Corporation provide a financial basis to make this ambitious project a reality,” said Museum Director Gen. J.R. “Jack” Dailey. “Their support will enable us to begin developing plans to make the exhibition’s enlightening concepts relevant to all age groups.”

The National Air and Space Museum building on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., is located at Sixth Street and Independence Avenue S.W. The museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center is located in Chantilly, Va., near Washington Dulles International Airport.

The National Museum of American History collects, preserves and displays American heritage in the areas of social, political, cultural, scientific and military history. To learn more about the museum, please visit

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