One of my favorite historic sites I have yet to visit in Colorado was the Peterson Air and Space museum located on Peterson Air Force base right outside of Colorado Springs. This site has it all. A lot of history, artifacts, and extremely knowledgeable volunteers. Since it is located on an Air Force Base visitors must stop at the Peterson Base visitors center to access the base, but the site is free so it is well worth it. Thankfully I did not have to go through this experience since I was with someone who already had a DOD ID.
Peterson Air and Space Museum is one of those places that holds different heritage for each visitor. For our volunteer and members of the Air Force the museum is almost like a shrine. The museum houses a full cold war era radar plane, that our volunteer proudly served on for fourteen years. To him the plane was a shrine or memorial to his time in the service and to his memories. For other visitors though the museum is the perfect place learn about Peterson Air Force Base, NORAD and various World War II and Cold War defense planes and missiles.
The Museum is divided into three different hangars and several free standing outdoor exhibits. The Broadmoor hanger, built in the 1930s by the famous Broadmoor hotel of Colorado Springs to house their guests private planes. This building is currently under repair and can only be viewed from the outside. The next building houses the museum’s visitors center, gift shop and exhibits dedicated to Lieutenant Peterson, whom the base is named after. The building itself was the terminal for the old Colorado Springs Airport. Here visitors can learn about the history of Peterson field, and some of the men who flew in World War II and the Cold War. They have a lot of neat flight suits, and pieces from WWII era bombers on display.
The third building houses their restored B-24 bomber. This is a must see to anyone who visits the museum. One also needs to see the NORAD exhibits, including a replica of what the interior of NORAD is thought to look like. ( NORAD a big deal in Colorado Springs because it is located under Cheyenne Mountain.) Outside of each hanger there are a few different types of Air Force planes and missiles on display.While children may not understand all the exhibits they will enjoy looking at the planes and climbing around in the radar plane.
One thing that visiting Peterson brought to mind was the different experiences one has to go through to access a museum. The Peterson museum was not very busy when we were there, I only say a few military families and two boy scout groups and we were there on a perfect sunny Saturday. I wondered if the general public stays away from the museum because of the difficulties in accessing it, and if so, how does that affect the museum operations strategy? Not everyone wants to go through the hassle of signing in and getting check at the base visitors center. Some folks might be a little wary of being on a military installation if they have never been on one before ( it is not that big of a deal). Because of its location I bet the museum does not get near as many visitors as it would if it was located in Colorado Springs or Denver. It would be interesting to sit down with museum staff and see how they try to compensate for their location. From what I have seen they do not have a large social media or local advertising presence. I wonder if they are doing this intentionally to prevent the commodification of Air Force history, or if they just don’t have the time or the personnel.
Regardless of all my pondering Peterson Air and Space museum was a wonderful experience. It is the perfect place for people of all ages. If the tour guide I had is there all the time then I know visitors will always walk away with some type of new historical knowledge while at the same time being thankful for these men who sacrificed so much of their life in service of this country.