The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery
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TIGHAR Guide to
Aviation Historic Preservation Terminology
presents terminology and definitions assembled by TIGHAR from sources in
the United States, Great Britain, the Netherlands, and Australia. The foundation
is especially grateful to David Hallam (TIGHAR #0912C), Senior Conservator
at the National Museum of Australia, Canberra, for his help in assembling
the pioneering work done on this subject in his country.
Special thanks also to:
D. Crouch, Chairman of Aeronautics, National Air & Space Museum,
Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., USA.
Fopp, Director, The Royal Air Force Museum, Hendon, London, Great
Lee, Assistant Director, The Imperial War Museum, Duxford, Great
Grey, The Fighter Collection, Duxford, Great Britain.
Hilliard, Curator, United States Air Force Museum, Wright-Patterson
Air Force Base, Ohio, USA (retired 1993).
The most important
thing to understand about the language used to describe historic aircraft
and their management is that it is no different from that used to describe
other historic preservation disciplines. While there are a handful of
terms unique to aviation (such as airworthy), most of the definitions
in this Guide come directly from related fields, such as industrial and
maritime historic preservation, and are the result of years of scholarly
consideration and debate. Regrettably, a long period of self-imposed isolation
has, until now, made aviation historical language a Tower of Babel, with
each air museum and collection devising whatever definitions make its
own aircraft look best. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that when
standardized, rigorous and well-thought-out terminology is applied to
the world's collections, we find some surprises.
For example: Old
boats and old airplanes are two sides of the same preservation coin, but
maritime historic preservation is many years ahead of aviation in defining
its terms and its artifacts. In July of 1990, the U. S. National Park
Service published the result of a five year study entitled The Secretary
of the Interiors Standards for Historic Vessel Preservation Projects. Among
its findings is that rehabilitation, defined as “returning
the vessel to a state of utility through repair or alterations,”
is the choice of last resort. And yet many in aviation have, for years,
considered an historic aircrafts return to airworthy condition to
be the most desirable objective. Most of the contents of the world’s air
museums, and virtually all vintage airplanes flying today, should be properly
termed reconstructions rather than restorations. And yet, that same NPS
report specifically notes that “replicas, reproductions, and reconstructions
are not historic vessels.”
Describing Rare Aircraft
most accurate nomenclature for the specific aircraft you wish to
describe. Include the manufacturer, model number or military designation,
variant or mark designation, popular name (if any), and its individual
civilian or military registration and name (if any). Examples:
Flying Fortress 42-32076 “Shoo Shoo Shoo Baby”
NX211 “Spirit of St. Louis”
Find the noun
which most accurately describes the aircraft as it exists now. The
possibilities below are listed in descending order of desirability.
Naturally, when more than one term applies the least desirable description
must be used. Note: Use of the terms original, restoration, and
reconstruction must include a reference date (for example, original
complete the description with the date, in the case of originals,
restorations and reconstructions; or, in the case of rehabilitations,
reproductions, adaptations and replicas, specify whether the aircraft
is represented in factory or service condition.
Shoo Shoo Baby,” now on display at the United States Air
Force Museum, was damaged on a raid over Germany during World
War II and landed in Sweden. The aircraft was interned and later
extensively modifed for a number of post-war uses by various owners
in Scandinavia and France. In 1972 it arrived at Wright-Patterson
AFB, Ohio, in boxes, having been cut up for shipment with chain
saws. Moved to Dover AFB, Delaware, the aircraft underwent an
extensive rebuild which included the replacement of many major
components with parts from other B-17s, and, in some cases, newly
fabricated parts. Although the USAF Museum does not generally
fly aircraft in its collection, the only practical, and ultimately
the safest, way to deliver “Shoo Shoo Shoo Baby” to
Ohio was to fly it there. The aircraft was therefore rebuilt to
airworthy condition and flown to the United States Air Force Museum
in 1988. The aircraft is not an original nor is it a restoration.
It is correctly described as:
B-17G Flying Fortress
#42-32076 “Shoo Shoo Shoo Baby”
a composite rehabilitation to factory condition.
of St. Louis was delivered to the Smithsonian Institution
in 1928 at the conclusion of Lindberghs extensive public
relations tour which followed his triumphal return from France
the previous year. During that time, routine maintenance and repair
work replaced much of the material which had been part of the airplane
when it made its Atlantic crossing. However, once accessioned into
the Smithsonian collection, the aircraft was conserved rather than
subjected to more radical treatment. Today the aircraft is correctly
NYP NX211 Spirit of St. Louis, a preserved,
definitive original, reference date 1928.
the terms in this Guide will be familiar to aviation professionals and enthusiasts,
while others will be less so. Some of the words, such as repair, fabric,
and maintenance, mean something very different when used in an historic
preservation context than they do when they are used during an aircraft’s
active service (just as irrigation means something very different to a physician
than it does to a farmer).
Rare vs. Historic
is a very important distinction and one which is commonly misunderstood.
The criteria for judging historical significance are listed under the
term's definition, but the decision as to whether a particular machine
is an historic aircraft or merely a rare aircraft will depend, in large
part, upon its historical integrity. Because historical integrity is determined
by how much of the aircraft's original fabric survives, we must accept
the fact that aircraft routinely assumed to be historic do not qualify
for that special appellation. However, it also means that concerns about
the destruction of historic aircraft in flying accidents should, more
accurately, be aimed at preventing the loss of rare aircraft because,
by definition, an aircraft rehabilitated to airworthy condition is no
longer an historic aircraft.
the treatment and management of any particular aircraft must balance the
need to safeguard its original fabric against the desire to present an
attractive and meaningful object for public exhibition.
of an object to serve a new compatible use.
Capable of meeting current regulatory standards for flight.
Any object made by human work.
use which involves no change to the historically important features
of an object.
The condition an object was in when it left the manufacturer.
condition an object was in at a particular time in its economic life.
the processes of looking after an object so as to retain its culturally
significant qualities, and minimize deterioration.
of an object to arrest deterioration, prevent further deterioration,
and, at the same time, provide for cosmetic display considerations.
Stabilization of an object in need of immediate measures to arrest
and prevent rapid deterioration.
Long-term care of an object by measures designed to prevent deterioration
treatment of groups of similar objects.
object that has been altered to effect a representation of or resemblance
to another object.
period of an objects life during which it is in active service,
whether performing its originally intended function, or some later useful
the physical material of an object.
of flight. Note: not the same as airworthy.
the same as representative object. An object which has no individual
historical or cultural significance other than as a surviving example
of its type.
aircraft which retains a meaningful degree of historical significance.
See historic property.
object’s æsthetic, scientific, technological, and social
merit assessed in terms of its:
and extent of remaining original material.
with a particular historic event or individual.
as a survivor of its type.
of past design innovation, style, construction techniques, etc.
cultural or spiritual significance to a particular segment of
exceptional æsthetic qualities of form or decoration.
degree to which an object retains its fabric and identity.
degree to which an object retains its physical composition.
The cultural message communicated by the treatment and management
of an object.
The continuous care of an object without alteration of its fabric.
(Latin, a place of study) A building, or part of one, in which
are preserved and exhibited objects of permanent interest in one
or more arts and sciences. [Webster’s Second International Unabridged
An institution that collects, studies, exhibits, and conserves
objects for cultural and educational purposes. [Encyclopedia Britannica]
the same as property. Any physical entity considered for treatment
representative object built up from pieces and components from others
of its type.
irreplaceable object of great historical and/or cultural significance.
Means the same as generic example. An object which has no individual
historical or cultural significance other than as a surviving example
of its type.
An object whose purpose is to provide a functioning example of its
type. In the working object, repair has priority over preservation
and historical integrity is thereby sacrificed.
actual fabric that is passed down from a particular time in history.
the fabric of an object in its existing state and halting deterioration.
An aircraft of a type of which relatively few examples exist. Not
necessarily an historic aircraft.
an object to a known earlier state by means of repair of the existing
fabric and, to a substantial degree, its replacement with new materials.
removal of an object from surroundings detrimental to its conservation.
of an object to a state of utility through repair, reconstruction,
and often adaptation or conversion.
the same as restoration. Returning the existing materials of an object
to a known earlier state with minimal introduction of new material.
An object constructed to represent, to a greater or lesser degree
of accuracy, an object which existed at some previous time.
copy of an existing object.
the same as repair. Returning the existing fabric of an object to
a known earlier state with minimal introduction of new material.
Capable of being undone with no adverse effect to the original fabric
of the object.
The short-term arresting of deterioration pending the implementation
of further conservation measures.
point of all historic preservation is the safeguarding of the physical
material passed down to us from the past.
TIGHAR Guide to Aviation Historic Preservation Terminology makes available
to the aviation world the language it needs to truly save the relics of
its heritage. A PDF may be downloaded for printing HERE. It is free.
65 page transcript of in-depth discussions on the principles of aviation
historic preservation, copies of Proceedings: Aircraft to Artifact,
An International TIGHAR Seminar are available. Held at the Royal Air
Force Museum in London, September 1990, this first-of-its-kind event brought
together directors and representatives of ten air museums from eight countries.
It will be available shortly as a PDF in the TIGHAR Store.
Guide To Aviation Historic Preservation Terminology is a publication of
The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery, a non-profit foundation.
The terms and definitions presented here, while gathered from the most
authoritative sources, were selected and edited by TIGHAR. TIGHAR is solely
responsible for this publication.
Copyright 2018 by TIGHAR, a non-profit foundation.
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