Thursday, December 29, 2011


The Coronado Public Library concluded 2011 commemorating the Centennial of Naval Aviation (CONA), an anniversary that it had observed throughout the year with special exhibits, lectures, programs, film-showings, and other special activities. Such a year-long series of events had not seen its like at the Coronado Library since  its own centennial in 1990. The commemoration was especially significant for us due to the number of groups and institutions that were drawn together to plan the San Diego and Coronado-based observances. And the planning meetings were hosted by the Coronado Public Library. Planning began in late 2009, with the U.S. Navy eager to enlist local institutions and organizations to help expand the promotion of CONA throughout the region.

The Library Exhibit Gallery with the model of the Curtiss A-1 Pusher on loan from
the San Diego Air & Space Museum.

The Navy had already established a CONA Task Force when the Coronado Library began planning an exhibit  to commemorate the Centennial of Naval Aviation. We established contact  in 2009 with LT. Kevin Ferguson of the Task Force, and subsequently with Capt. Rich Dann, the Naval Aviation history expert on the Centennial Task Force. Since the Coronado Public Library had only a very small collection of artifacts and photographs covering Naval Aviation, we also made contact with the San Diego Air & Space Museum and the U.S.S. Midway to inquire about possible loans of artifacts. Learning that the Coronado Historical Association was also planning a special exhibit, a local "CONA Committee" was formed consisting of the Navy Task force representatives, the CHA with Susan Keith and Susan Enowitz, Karl Zingheim the Historian for the Midway, and representatives of the S.D. Air & Space Museum. We were very fortunate to have Doug Siegfried, archivist for the Tailhook Association, to not only join the committee, but to volunteer his time to the Library to provide his expertise on Naval Aviation history. He also offered to loan material from the Tailhook Association and from his own collection for our exhibit. 

It is customary for the Library's exhibits to run for two months at a time, each with a completely different theme. Karl Zingheim suggested at one of our early meetings that we run the exhibit all year long in 2011, this because the Centennial observance was lasting all year. Since unlike a museum we have frequent repeat users and visitors, we felt we needed to change the exhibits periodically in order to hold interest. The story of Naval Aviation over 100 years is very complex, and we could see how six exhibits, each lasting two months and covering a different chronological time period in the 100 year span, would be needed to do justice to the achievements of Naval Aviation. But this now made it even more challenging for us to plan for and to borrow artifacts and to find images and to place them in context, while at the same time presenting a narrative history of Naval Aviation. We would also need to describe the importance of each individual object, document, or photo.


As planning continued in 2010, vital new players joined in the Library-based meetings. Library Trustee and retired  VADM. Ed Martin, who had headed the national commemoration of the 75th Anniversary of Naval Aviation, joined in. Lloyd Parthemer and the Naval Helicopter Historical Society came aboard, eager to tell the story of  helicopters in Naval Aviation and with exhibit materials to loan. Ret'd Capt. Jim DiMatteo of the 100th Anniversary of the Naval Aviation Foundation also joined, an important player in planning major CONA celebratory events here and across the country. City Council Member Mike Woiwode, a retired Naval aviator, served as liaison to the City Council.  Major Kendro, USMC, joined in , and the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary was represented by Angie Ginn.

Candice Hooper at the Library began methodical plans to lay-out six time periods and to borrow the items and images necessary to do justice to the compelling story of Naval Aviation. She formed several important relationships with private donors to borrow precious family artifacts and documents, and likewise with the curators at the San Diego Air & Space Museum for the loan of significant artifacts. Another vital group was enlisted, the San Diego Chapter of the International Plastic Modeler's Society. Candice attended their meetings and recruited members to loan or make scale-models of significant historical aircraft. The members became enthusiastic supporters and provided the volunteers for a Make-and-Take model event at the Library. And to complement the exhibits, programs were planned such as documentary and movie showings, author talks and lectures, and other events. The Library also made arrangements to bring in a travelling exhibit of WW II era original paintings depicting scenes of Naval Aviation from the Naval Heritage and History Command in Washington D.C. With support of the many parties, and especially with the help of Doug Siegfried, the six Library exhibits were planned: The Birth of Naval Aviation and its Early Development, 1910-1922; Naval Aircraft Go Around the World, 1923-1941; Naval Aviation in World War II, 1942-1945; The Navy and Aircraft Manufacturing in San Diego; New Challenges for Naval Aviation, 1950-1975; and Naval Aviation in the Modern World. Each exhibit had its own timeline of historical events told in text and pictures. The Naval Helicopter Historical Society also contributed a video screen with an on-going slide-show of historical helicopter images.

The meetings held at the Library served as a vital conduit of information to the various entities planning events. The meetings also served at a crucial time to emphasize the importance of having a public celebration of the centennial at North Island itself, where Naval Aviation began one hundred years previously. Thus the Navy planned an Open House for February 12, 2011 at Naval Air Station, North Island. As planning for this major event became a reality, other entities joined, including Naval Region Southwest MWR, Coronado Mainstreet, the Coronado Chamber of Commerce, the Coronado Tourism Improvement District, and the Coronado Police Department. Meanwhile, LT. Kevin Ferguson was replaced by LT. Harriet Johnson on the Task Force and as liaison to the committee.

The Open House held at North Island with its spectacular aerial review and static aircraft display was attended by tens of thousands. Thousands more viewed it from aboard the Midway and around the bay. The Library's exhibits were among the best it has ever had and were seen by hundreds of visitors. The Library programs too brought an added dimension with their diversity and range of presentation types and subject specialties. As the centennial year progressed, the U.S. Navy was very pleased with the support it garnered from all of these organizations in celebrating the anniversary. The year is reviewed in the slide-show below. It was a great year, and Coronado and the San Diego region can be proud.

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