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Statehouse exhibit opens on Neil Armstrong, 50th anniversary of lunar landing

(January 17, 2019) — The Statehouse will be home to an exhibit honoring astronaut Neil Armstrong and the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing starting Thursday and running into late July.

“It’s a really important thing in Ohio’s history, but also in the history of the world,” said Brittany Venturella, curator at the Armstrong Air & Space Museum in Wapakoneta. “It was one moment that people across the world were able to come together and celebrate. It united them.”

The exhibit, “One Small Step, One Giant Leap,” is a partnership between the museum, the OhioHistory Connection and the Auglaize County Historical Society, organized by the Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board.

The display will be based in the Map Room downstairs at the Statehouse and explore Armstrong’s early life and passion for aviation, as well as the Apollo 11 mission and the aftermath of the lunar landing. The collection features artifacts from various Apollo missions and the heat shields preserved from the Apollo 8 and Apollo 7 spacecrafts.

Also featured are mementos from the Apollo 11 astronauts’ world tour, including a school scrapbook project from India; a “lunar tartan” from Armstrong’s ancestral home in Langholm, Scotland; and a scroll by a Korean student.

The scroll loosely translates to: “Don’t criticize someone for leaving, be glad when they return. I would like to go too.” The scroll was given to Armstrong in 1969 during his tour of six continents and over 25 countries, according to the Armstrong museum’s Greg Brown.

The items are sensitive to light and temperature, Venturella said, and must be displayed in moderation. Therefore, a few artifacts will be removed and replaced in late April.

The exhibit also will depict Armstrong’s boyhood in Auglaize County and the western Ohio county’s celebration of his achievements. The Auglaize County Historical Society provided “kitschy” memorabilia from the lunar landing, such as “moon cheese” and “moon sauce,” administrator Rachel Barber said.

Barber said she hopes the exhibit captures the heroic efforts of Ohio astronauts.

“It’s just a wonderful story about … Ohio history that had international impacts,” she said.

The Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board initiated the collaboration between the three organizations and will host the exhibit for its seven-month run. The Statehouse sees thousands of people per day, board historical site manager Chris Matheney said, which makes it a stage for Ohio’s artifacts and art.

Matheney encouraged visitors to experience the exhibit and “get (their) nerd on.”

“This is a way we can celebrate,” Venturella said. “And this is also a way for us to say, ‘come celebrate with us again. Ohio is the place to be.’”