During my shift in the reading room yesterday, I stood up to greet a mother, an exchange student, and two young children who had come to get their Wilbear passport stamps. They were on the Wilbear Wright Race to Dayton’s Amazing Aviation Places. Special Collections & Archives at Wright State is one of the 14 amazing aviation sites on the races’ path. We love to see visitors “fly in” with their passports. While we aren’t a museum, we have history that you just can’t see anywhere else. The little boy couldn’t believe we had the Wright brothers’ report cards…until he saw one in the case. It really is fun to look at how someone else did in school, especially when you realize even geniuses like Wil and Orv weren’t perfect students.
The little girl seemed especially interested in the Dayton Homecoming Celebration program from June 17-18, 1909. The program lists the schedule of events during the big welcome home party that Dayton threw for the brothers after their successful demonstration flights in Europe. The two day party included parades, fireworks, and a ceremony where the brothers were awarded the City of Dayton medals, State of Ohio medals, and Congressional Gold medals. Those medals, along with several others, are on display in the reading room. As the little girl was looking at the medals, she asked why there is only one of some of the medals and two of others. I explained that Wilbur died at a much younger age than Orville. The single medals were awarded to Orville after Wilbur’s death in 1912. In my mind, I was impressed how observant the little girl was, and smiled a bit at how she seemed a little miffed that one of the brothers would be left out of getting a medal. I think Wil and Orv were smiling in that room, too.
I hope the family comes back to discover more of what is here. I made sure the kids know they are welcome any time to look at all kinds of aviation and local history. We’d be happy to help them explore a topic for a school paper, get them started researching family history, or learn more about what an archives is. Their bright eyes and interest inspired me to write this post and remind all of you that you are always welcome. The more engaged we are, the more vibrant our history is.
P.S. If you want to join in the race, you can find out more about how to get started with a passport at the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park website http://www.nps.gov/daav/planyourvisit/index.htm . It is a wonderful activity to do with kids of all ages, and the added reward at the end is your very own Wilbear Wright!