First-off, let me just say that the decision-making on this all happened before my arrival at the AAC. But, let’s just wander around in the possibles, shall we?
Here we have a Zeiss Maximar B 4×5 camera, used by Bradford Washburn, the man our museum is named after, on his historic 1st ascent of Mt. Lucania, 1937. John Grunsfeld, climber and astronaut, is scheduled to fly on the October 2008 Hubble mission. The camera was “restored” by a local camera repair place, and Grunsfeld plans to take the camera with him, and attempt a photograph of earth with the camera. Camera and film will be returned to the AAC archives at the end of the mission. Theoretically.
Where to start? The coolness factor is a fairly immense argument in favor of tinkering with an artifact and then sending it VERY far from the archive. What kind of loan agreement is necessary for this sort of thing? As for insuring this travelling exhibit, I suppose we just trust that NASA has larger issues on its mind and would like to return the people involved, and the camera will come along as well. And fixing the camera? The argument is that it’s a tool foremost, and a tool should work, and you do what you can to make it work. Which is of more historical value – that it be preserved as it was, on a shelf in the archive, or that it continue its life of adventure, documenting as it goes? The climbing culture in which this artifact is embedded is not that tolerant of sitting on the shelf in any way. I sincerely hope the end of this story does not included the line “lost in space”, but it sure makes for an interesting story!