Coronado Museum to open new history exhibit “Wings of Gold: Coronado and Naval Aviation” Feb. 4.

In early 1911, the United States Navy asked pioneer aviator/inventor Glenn Curtiss to train one of its officers to fly. Curtiss chose a sandy, scrub-covered island in San Diego Bay as the location for the task and Coronado became the birthplace of naval aviation. The course of military history was changed forever. The Coronado Historical Association (CHA) will participate in a national celebration of the Centennial of Naval Aviation with the unveiling of a themed museum exhibit “Wings of Gold: Coronado and Naval Aviation” on Feb. 4.

. Early flight over the Hotel del Coronado, January 26, 1911. Photo: Coronado Historical Assn.

“Wings of Gold” will be showcased in one of the main galleries of the Coronado Museum of History & Art and will feature rare photographs and documents such as an early pilot license signed by Orville Wright. An original pilot’s uniform, the helmet of one the first female naval aviators and a national insignia that flew on aircraft from 1919-1940 are examples of other items that will be on view. One of the most exciting artifacts on display will be a scale model of the original seaplane designed and built by Curtiss and flown off the shores of Coronado. He built the model to successfully defend his design in a patent lawsuit.  It includes Curtiss’ handwritten notes and a wooden case he built to carry the model into the courtroom.

But the exhibit will be about more than just the surprising number of “firsts” that have occurred in aviation in Coronado. A video component utilizing photographs and oral history interviews of aviators who lived in Coronado and worked at Naval Air Station (NAS) – North Island will be featured, including snapshots of pilots participating in the civic and social life of the community over the decades.

Residents of Coronado have been involved in every major conflict since World War I.  One section will feature profiles of five highly-decorated hometown heroes, including Rear Admiral James D. Ramage, a recipient of the Navy Cross for his role in the Battle of the Philippine Sea in World War II, and Admiral James B. Stockdale, who was shot down over North Vietnam in 1965, and held in Hanoi as a prisoner of war for eight years, later becoming a Vice Presidential candidate in 1992.

Mark Aldrich, an aviation history expert and co-author of “San Diego’s North Island, 1911-1941,” served as guest curator for “Wings of Gold: Coronado and Naval Aviation.” Many of the artifacts and compelling photographs are from the CHA archives, but other pieces are on loan from the San Diego Air & Space Museum, Flying Leatherneck Museum, San Diego Maritime Museum and the Naval Helicopter Historical Society. Some of the most important objects and information in the exhibition came from Coronado residents themselves.

“Wings of Gold” has been funded in part by the Office of County Supervisors Community Enhancement Program.It opens at the Coronado Museum of History & Art in conjunction with the national Centennial of Naval Aviation celebration, which will have its kick-off at NAS North Island on Feb. 12.

“Wings of Gold” will be on exhibit through September. Admission is free. Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays-Fridays; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sundays. The museum is adjacent to the Coronado Visitor Center, 1100 Orange Ave. (619) 435-7242,

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Posted by Susan DeMaggio on Jan 27, 2011. Filed under La Jolla Life, Life. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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