Smithsonian Aviation Curator to Speak at Norwich about Lincoln Balloon Corps

Norwich University Office of Communications

March 12, 2015 

NORTHFIELD, Vt. – Norwich University’s Sullivan Museum and History Center, the state’s only Smithsonian Affiliate, will host Dr. Tom Crouch, Senior Curator of Aeronautics at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, for a lunch-and-learn on Wednesday, April 8 at noon in Milano Ballroom, located in Roberts Hall.

Crouch’s presentation, “Mr. Lincoln’s Air Force:  Military Aeronautics in the Civil War,” is free and open to the public. A light lunch will be served, and a book-signing will follow.

Abraham Lincoln held a life-long fascination with technology and during the Civil War seldom missed an opportunity to investigate new weapons or innovations. New England balloonist T.S.C. Lowe was able to demonstrate to Lincoln the role that observation balloons might play in providing improved reconnaissance for the Union Army. The President not only encouraged Lowe’s plan to form a Balloon Corps to serve with the Army of the Potomac, but intervened on his behalf when military officials proved less than enthusiastic about the experiment. With the assistance of the President, Lowe was able to create and equip the Balloon Corps, which saw extensive service from 1861 to 1863.

Copies of Crouch’s books “Lighter-Than-Air: An Illustrated History of Balloons and Airships,” and “The Bishop’s Boys: A Life of Wilbur and Orville Wright,” will be available for sale at the event.

Crouch holds a BA (1962) from Ohio University, an MA (1968) from Miami University and a PhD (1976) from the Ohio State University (all in history) and has been a Smithsonian employee since 1974. He is the author or editor of a number of books and many articles for both popular magazines and scholarly journals. These include “Eagle Aloft: Two Centuries of the Balloon in America” and “Wings: A History of Aviation from Kites to the Space Age.”

Crouch has also received a number of book awards including a 1989 Christopher Award, a literary prize recognizing “significant artistic achievement in support of the highest values of the human spirit,” for “The Bishop’s Boys: A Life of Wilbur and Orville Wright.” His book “Wings: A History of Aviation From Kites to the Space Age” won the AIAA Gardner-Lasser Literature Prize for 2005, an award presented to the best book selected in that year from all books in the field of aerospace history published in the last five years.

For more information, call the Sullivan Museum at (802) 485-2183, or email  RSVPs encouraged, but not required.


Norwich University is a diversified academic institution that educates traditional-age students and adults in a Corps of Cadets and as civilians. Norwich offers a broad selection of traditional and distance-learning programs culminating in Baccalaureate and Graduate Degrees. Norwich University was founded in 1819 by Captain Alden Partridge of the U.S. Army and is the oldest private military college in the United States of America. Norwich is one of our nation’s six senior military colleges and the birthplace of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC).

In fulfillment of Norwich’s mission to train and educate today’s students to be tomorrow’s global leaders and captains of industry, the Forging the Future campaign is committed to creating the best possible learning environment through state-of-the-art academics and world-class facilities. Learn more about the campaign and how to participate in the “Year of Service” here:  

New Civil War Exhibits Open at Sullivan Museum

Fall of Richmond Illustration by Currier and Ives
Norwich University museum celebrates opening of fifth and final exhibition in Civil War series and related show by artist Kara Walker
January 15, 2015


NORTHFIELD, Vt.–Norwich University’s Sullivan Museum and History Center invites the public to celebrate the opening of a new exhibit, “1865, Out of the Ashes: Assassination, Reconstruction, and Healing the Nation,” with a reception on Friday, January 23 from 5-7 p.m.

The exhibit, which focuses on the aftermath of the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, the rehabilitation and restoration of the South, and efforts to unify the country, is the fifth and final exhibition in the museum’s series commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.

A centerpiece of the new exhibition is a unique and rare firearm recently acquired by the Sullivan Museum and History Center: a Spencer repeating rifle. Possibly tested by President Lincoln himself, the weapon had remained in private hands for several generations and will now be on public view for the first time since the Civil War. The rifle was itself an important part of Civil War history. Adopted by Union troops, it allowed for more accurate and rapid firing. The Spencer rifle now on view was an early issue, originally given to Lincoln by the manufacturer and later gifted by Lincoln to Gideon Welles, NU’1826, in recognition of his Civil War service as Secretary of the Navy.

In addition to the rifle, historical objects from Ford’s Theater, a brass cannon used during the Civil War and period currency loaned by the Hon. John W. Walter will be included in the exhibition.

Kara Walker Prints

The museum is also pleased to concurrently present a separate complementary exhibition of pictorial works by contemporary African American artist Kara Walker, made possible through the generous support of Tawani Foundation Endowment Funds.

“Kara Walker: Juxtaposition, Contemporary Specters, and Harper’s Pictorial History of the Civil War,” features contemporary works on loan from Mount Holyoke College.  The artist combined her signature overlays of black silhouettes with historic lithography to produce poignant and sharp commentary on stereotypes found in the nation’s history of slavery, Jim Crow and segregation that still infiltrate present stereotypes.

Both exhibits will remain on display until July 31, 2015. Visitors exploring the museum will find a blackboard to engage in ongoing discussion about the legacies of the Civil War and Reconstruction that still affect society today.

Plan Your Visit

The Sullivan Museum and History Center is a Smithsonian Affiliate, the only such museum in the state of Vermont. (See related article.) The museum is located on the Northfield campus of Norwich University. It is open Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. during the academic year. There is no charge for admission to the museum. For more information call 802.485.2183 or visit the museum’s website ( or Facebook page (

Norwich University Oral History Project Seeks Participants

For immediate release

By Daphne Larkin | Norwich University Office of Communications        [button href=”#” title=”Media Resources” target=”blank” shape=”square” size=”small” icon_only=”true” info=”popover” info_place=”right” info_trigger=”hover” info_content=”Two photos and one audio clip is available for this story.”] Media Downloads[/button]

June 26, 2014

NORTHFIELD, Vt. – After a successful inaugural year, an oral history project at Norwich University that collects spoken histories from the Norwich community invites more participants, including alumni, Northfield residents, university supporters and past and present employees to share their stories.

[pullquote cite=”Jennifer Payne, Norwich Voices Oral History Project Coordinator” type=”right”]“We want to preserve history in the voice of those who have lived it.”[/pullquote]

The Norwich Voices Oral History Project at the Sullivan Museum and History Center is a three-year pilot project to collect and preserve the stories of the Norwich community. The theme is the training of the citizen-soldier, and particular attention will be paid to stories of service and leadership woven through the reminiscences. Funded through the generosity of the Tawani Foundation (Chicago, IL), the project runs until 2017.

Interviews will be transcribed, cataloged, and indexed for accessibility using best practices and standards of the Oral History Association. Interview titles will be entered into the Kreitzberg Library catalog, which shares information with other libraries around the world. Researchers will have access to recordings through the museum and ultimately through our website using new searchable-speech technology.

“We want to preserve history in the voice of those who have lived it,” said Jennifer Payne, the project’s coordinator. “The most valuable contribution a person can leave for the future is their story. People have long used storytelling to transmit information and values within a culture’s heritage to the next generation.”

The scope of the project is broad. “We have stories from a 1934 graduate who trained on horseback,” Payne added, “and a Ranger from the class of 2005 who handled communications for Air Force One.”

Future plans include web access as allowed by participants and interactive indexing of the histories through a partnership with the University of Kentucky’s Louie B. Nunn’s Center for Oral History.

How to Participate

People interested in sharing their story may nominate themselves or another person through the museum’s website ( at or by contacting Jennifer Payne at 802-485-2379.

Selected participants will be scheduled for an interview that takes about an hour. Interviews can be conducted at an on-campus studio or within a 250-mile radius. They will receive interview questions ahead of time and can review and edit their transcribed interview before it becomes a permanent resource. Participants receive a copy of their recording and retain copyright of their story for their lifetime. Participants have input into the usage of their recording.

Media contact:

Daphne Larkin
(802) 485-2886
(802) 595-3613 (mobile)

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