Peter Kleeman is the founder and curator of Space Age Museum, a vast archive of pop culture ephemera that showcases “how everyday people participated in the adventure of space exploration during the 20th Century.” Supercluster’s Robin Seemangal and Jamie Carreiro interviewed Peter Kleeman for the Supercluster Podcast. Below, Peter shared more insight on his mission to preserve this unique moment in space history.
The Space Age is an era that radically transformed our perspectives.
It was a period of exploration driven by big ideas, creativity, and scientific innovations. It revealed a cosmic context for life within a vast universe and inspired dreams of far-reaching futures. The dynamic intersection of art, science, and history informed a Space Age culture worthy of deep reflection.
Space Age Museum’s expansive collection of artifacts offers a unique view of this moment in culture. Playful and artistic expressions echo humanity’s evolution into a spacefaring species. Art, design, toys, advertising, furniture, amusements, folk expressions, and period photographs offer familiar but rarely seen glimpses of the Space Age. The history of how art, science, and popular culture informed each other through a symbiotic relationship of innovation and speculation gives us a fun and accessible entry point for grappling with humanity’s challenges. Space Age cultural history centers everyday people in an inclusive story of space exploration and invites us to imagine the future. There is no other museum with extensive material pertaining to this subject.
Right now the planet is in an alarming and uncertain state. People are desperately seeking to cultivate hope amid social, environmental, and economic crises. The planetary perspectives facilitated by the golden age of space exploration can offer us an optimistic and critical approach to understanding this moment. Historical examples in the collection serve as tools to envision better possible futures, promote ecological awareness, and empower everyday people to explore creative approaches to global challenges.
Earth is a magnificent spaceship that carries all of humanity through the universe. It is our mothership, a fragile life support system we depend on for survival. As interconnected crew members upon this vessel, we must all coordinate to nurture each other if we are to thrive at home and explore outward into space with a shared purpose.
Space Age Museum is a monument dedicated to humanity’s potential. We have a collection, but we do not yet have the means to build and operate a publicly accessible facility. Furthermore — our current storage lacks climate control, utilities, and other infrastructure necessary to properly preserve our one-of-a-kind collection. It urgently needs to be relocated somewhere better protected and suitable for visitors.
By acquiring property in a strategic location and building the first phase of a growing facility, we can improve the preservation of the collection and welcome the public. A larger institute built around the museum will become a campus where people can attend screenings, workshops, camps, conferences, and residencies centered on creative approaches to the future, space exploration, ecology, and planetary thinking.
We have a vision, a team to execute it, unique content, a local community, and global audiences. We just lack the capital to take the next big steps. Space Age Museum is poised to become an international hub of hope, a place for people to reflect on history and shape the future. In order to realize this potential, we need significant funding. As a legacy project, we aim to build financial sustainability so that our institute can survive and grow for generations to come. We feel an urgency to start construction as soon as possible, to establish a strong trajectory to guide and energize the mission.
By investing in the history of the future, we can serve the world of today, tomorrow and beyond.
While building an institute will unfold over the span of years, immediate initiatives for the remainder of 2020 are pressing and in need of support. Maintaining momentum while navigating a global pandemic is challenging, but more important than ever. This spring I completed my master’s degree in Public History/Museum Studies at the University of Massachusetts. I spent two years honing my skills as a historian of the Space Age and interning at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum where I now work doing research in the Space History Department. In order to continue on this trajectory, I am currently looking for grants, collaborations, and additional work opportunities that can support me while I take the next steps necessary for bringing this project to the public.
Immediate priorities include cataloging the entire collection. At last estimate, it consists of more than 10,000 objects and over 8,000 period photographs. Creating a proper database will enable us to better communicate the dynamic offerings we can provide, and enable the production of digital content.
We are steadfast in these efforts but the pace is dictated by support. Any opportunities to be of service which dovetail with our mission to preserve and present the cultural history of the Space Age are welcome.
Visit Space Age Museum for more information or to donate and get involved.