1972 letter from NASA astronaut Alan Bean to author Arthur C. Clarke (Credit: National Air and Space Museum / Smithsonian Institution)
Sir Arthur C. Clarke Collection Arrives at National Air and Space Museum
The Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum has acquired a large collection from the Sir Arthur C. Clarke Trust. The collection consists of 87 cubic feet of material representing the life’s work of one of the 20th-century’s foremost science fiction writers and futurists. The collection will be made available to researchers in the museum’s archives after being processed and cataloged.
“Arthur C. Clarke’s papers are a signature acquisition for the Smithsonian and the National Air and Space Museum,” said Martin Collins, curator of civilian applications satellites at the museum. “We have the honor of preserving and making available to researchers Clarke’s prominent place in the cultural history of spaceflight. Not least, the collection will enable the museum to tell a richer story of how science fiction and futurism interacted with contemporaneous space achievements, shaping our ideas about exploration beyond the Earth.”
Clarke, well known for penning the novel and screenplay for 2001: A Space Odyssey, was a writer of both science fiction and science fact. His contributions to the rapid technological development of the mid-20th century included popularizing the concept of a network of geostationary communications satellites—a cornerstone of 21st-century society—as early as 1945, 12 years before the launch of Sputnik. Clarke was also a noted deep-sea explorer, inventor and television personality. He covered the Apollo 11 mission for CBS alongside Walter Cronkite.
The Arthur C. Clarke collection contain correspondence with notable contemporaries, including Cronkite, cosmologist Carl Sagan, aerospace engineer Werner von Braun and Smithsonian astronomer Fred Whipple. Other material in the collection includes video tapes, 16 mm films, audio tapes, personal items and early drafts of the screenplay for 2001: A Space Odyssey.”
Curator Martin Collins and Archivist Patti Williams traveled to Clarke’s home in Colombo, Sri Lanka, to catalog, pack and ship the collection to the museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Va. Support for the team’s travel and shipment of the collection were provided by FedEx.
“We feel that Clarke’s creativity and innovative spirit are a representative part of our operations at FedEx every day,” said Jenny Robertson, FedEx director of citizenship. “That’s why we identified so closely with this collection and were pleased to donate the shipping.”
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. Attendance at both buildings combined exceeded 8 million in 2014, making it the most visited museum in America. The museum’s research, collections, exhibitions and programs focus on aeronautical history, space history and planetary studies. Both buildings are open from 10 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. every day (closed Dec. 25).
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