by Airman 1st Class Alexis Christian
U.S. Air Force, 21st Space Wing Public Affairs
May 7, 2018
More than 20,000 people visit the Peterson Air and Space Museum on Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, every year.
“A majority of visitors are members of the general public with no military affiliation,” said Jeffery Nash, Peterson Air and Space Museum assistant director. (Edward J. Peterson Air and Space Museum is the official name.)
“The museum is contained within the 8.5-acre Colorado Springs Municipal Airport Historic District,” said Nash in an email. “It’s the site of the original Colorado Springs Airport and contains four historic structures, the City Hanger, the Spanish House, Broadmoor Hanger, and the City Terminal.”
Also encompassed in the Historic District are the museum’s static display airpark, where you can find American and Canadian aircraft along with surface-to-air missiles, and the Medal Of Honor Park and Medal of Honor Memorial.
The hangers and the terminal hold different displays and exhibits, while the Spanish House is used as lodging when distinguished visitors come and visit Peterson AFB.
Col. Glen Griffith, 46th Aerospace Defense Wing commander officially established the Edward J. Peterson Air and Space Museum April 28, 1981, after receiving Air Staff approval to establish it as an Air Force Field Museum and a part of the Air Force Heritage Program, Nash said.
“The museum is one of only 12 United States Field museums,” said Nash.
He said the museum’s exhibits and its buildings have been around as early as 1928, when the Colorado Springs City Hanger was built.
“A few months after the attack on Pearl Harbor In 1942, the Colorado Springs Airport was selected to become the Colorado Springs Army Air Base,” said Nash. “During this time, the airport buildings were used by the military to continue base operations.”
The city terminal, built in 1941, was used as the base headquarters. The Spanish House, originally built in 1929 as housing for the airport manager, was used for the Red Cross and Army Emergency Relief Office.
“After World War II ended, the area was returned to the city and reverted to civilian airport terminal use until 1954, when a new airport terminal was built,” said Nash. “The new terminal is now used as Peterson AFB’s Base Operations.”
In 1975, Col. Donald Parson, 46th Aerospace Defense Wing commander, took the now museum buildings and established the North American Aerospace Defense Command Visitor Center, said Nash.
“The NORAD Visitor Center became the start and end of all the Cheyenne Mountain Complex tours for the public,” said Nash. “It was at this point that a majority of the static displays seen today first came to the base.”
Exhibits on the NORAD mission could also be found inside the visitor’s center.
Nash said that after the 21st Space Wing was activated on Peterson AFB in 1992, the museum realigned as a separate wing staff agency after being a part of the 3rd Space Support Wing.
“I learn something new every day, whether it’s about an object we have on display, a long-gone organization or someone that used to serve on Peterson,” said Nash. “I consider myself the keeper of those stories, and I’m committed to passing them along to our visitors.”