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‘Dream of Flight’ Revealed

Exhibit Marks Wright Brothers’ Milestone

The first motorized flight lasted only 12 seconds, but its success has impacted the world of aviation for the past century. To celebrate the legacy of Wilbur and Orville Wright, the pilots whose rickety triumph at Kitty Hawk, N.C., marks its 100th anniversary this year, the Library of Congress will feature the famous brothers in an exhibit opening Oct. 3.

To illustrate the historical obsession with aviation, the library’s “Dream of Flight” exhibit will include artifacts dated hundreds of years before the first successful flight took off in 1903. The focus, curator Len Bruno said, is to show the fascination of flight that preceded the Wright brothers.

“The exhibit shows flight as being a universal impulse,” he said. “It’s seen in every culture and spans many time periods.”

Flight’s rich history is what brought the Wrights to success, Bruno said. Earlier attempts and designs inspired future innovators, which is the major theme and inspiration for the exhibit.

“Everyone built on what was before them,” said exhibition director Giulia Adelfio, pointing to one of the exhibit’s pieces, a 1702 Bible from Amsterdam. The massive book is opened to a page picturing the flight of a man into heaven. This supernatural artifact will be the first in the exhibit’s line of historical pieces.

Early Leonardo Da Vinci drawings showing the artist’s attempt at flight mechanisms and vapor machine designs from 1670, which later inspired the invention of hot air balloons, will also be on display.

The concepts and designs shown in the first portion of the exhibit lead to the featured guests. The Wright brothers, a flying duo whose lifelong obsession not only with the air but also with engineering, take up the bulk of the Library’s display. Priceless objects such as meticulous logbooks kept by both men, a piece of fabric from the original 1903 plane and original photographs will be placed in the American Treasures gallery. With more than 30,000 pieces on the pilots in the Library’s permanent collection, Adelfio said whittling down the massive amount to just 85 pieces was difficult.

The exhibit will also include items placed in the Top Treasures case — a display that holds only the Library’s most cherished items, Adelfio said. Drafts of both the Gettysburg Address and the Declaration of Independence have been featured in the past.

A video montage flowing through the evolution of and obsession with flight is also included in the exhibit. The six-minute medley spans the life of flight with cartoon clips ranging from “Fantasia” to “Superman.” Scenes from the film “Apollo 13” are also included. Adelfio said the video not only shows the fictitious and sometimes goofy examples of flight (think Dumbo, the humongous flight elephant), but also continued success and innovation, as seen with the space age.

“Because man is so earthbound, we still remain intrigued with the possibility and magic of flight,” she said.

The “Dream of Flight” will be on display until late April 2004. An online version of the exhibition can be viewed at, which provides extended access to some of the items that didn’t make it into the gallery.

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