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"Black Wings" Exhibit Opens at National Air and Space Museum 09/1982

Subject:
Purnell, Louis R  Search this
Dellums, Ronald V. 1935-  Search this
Trip, Robert  Search this
National Air and Space Museum  Search this
United States Army Air Forces Fighter Group, 332nd  Search this
Smithsonian Institution Exhibitions  Search this
Black Wings: The American Black in Aviation (Exhibition) (1982-2016: National Air and Space Museum)  Search this
Date:
September 1982
Topic:
Exhibit openings  Search this
Curators  Search this
Regents  Search this
African Americans  Search this
Exhibitions  Search this
Data Source:
Smithsonian Archives - History Div
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:siris_sic_14590

Louis R. Purnell Oral History Interviews

Creator::
Purnell, Louis R., interviewee  Search this
Extent:
13 audiotapes (Reference copies).
Type:
Collection descriptions
Archival materials
Audiotapes
Transcripts
Place:
Wilmington (Del.)
Cape May (N.J.)
Tuskegee Army Air Field (Ala.)
Date:
1993-1994
Introduction:
The Smithsonian Institution Archives began its Oral History Program in 1973. The purpose of the program is to supplement the written documentation of the Archives' record and manuscript collections with an Oral History Collection, focusing on the history of the Institution, research by its scholars, and contributions of its staff. Program staff conduct interviews with current and retired Smithsonian staff and others who have made significant contributions to the Institution. There are also interviews conducted by researchers or students on topics related to the history of the Smithsonian or the holdings of the Smithsonian Institution Archives.

Louis R. Purnell was interviewed for the Oral History Collection because of his long career at the Institution, including fifteen years as Curator of Astronautics at the National Air and Space Museum, and his pioneering work as an African American professional.
Descriptive Entry:
Purnell was interviewed in seven sessions between December 1993 and February 1994 by Terrica M. Gibson, an Intern with the Institutional History Division, Smithsonian Institution Archives. The interviews cover his childhood in Wilmington, Delaware, and Cape May, New Jersey; his education, love of flying, service during World War II; reminiscences of prominent Army Air Corps personnel, including General Benjamin O. Davis, Jr.; careers with the Office of the Quartermaster General, U.S. Book Exchange, NMNH and NASM; the circumstances surrounding the first lunar landing; the move of NASM from the Arts & Industries (A&I) Building; relationship with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA); and reminiscences of colleagues including G. Arthur Cooper, S. Paul Johnston, and Michael Collins.

This collection is comprised of approximately 12 hours of recordings and 291 pages of transcript.
Historical Note:
Louis R. Purnell (1920-2001), was born on April 5, 1920 in Snow Hill, Maryland. He spent his youth in Wilmington, Delaware and Cape May, New Jersey. While beginning his undergraduate degree at Lincoln University, in Lincoln University, Pennsylvania, he was able to pursue his dream of becoming a pilot when the Civilian Pilot Training Program (CPTP) was instituted on campus. In 1942, he enlisted and was accepted into the seventh class of African American Army Air Force aviation cadets stationed at the Tuskegee Army Air Field in Tuskegee, Alabama (the Tuskegee Airmen). He joined the all-Black 99th Fighter Squadron in 1943. During World War II, he completed two tours of duty in North Africa and southern Italy with the 99th, and later the 332nd Fighter Group. He was presented the Distinguished Flying Cross and Air Medal with Eight Oak Leaf Clusters.

After his return to the United States, Purnell returned to Lincoln University and completed a B.A. in Psychology. He took a position as a Speech Therapist at the Lena J. Sklar School in Germantown, Pennsylvania. He eventually moved to Washington, D.C., and held positions at the Office of the Quartermaster General and the United States Book Exchange at the Library of Congress. Purnell worked in a variety of jobs at the Smithsonian, eventually joining the Division of Invertebrate Paleontology and Paleobotany in the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) in 1961. In 1968, he moved to the Department of Astronautics of the National Air and Space Museum (NASM). During his career in the Astronautics Department (renamed the Department of Space Science and Exploration in 1980), he progressed through the ranks from Museum Specialist to Curator, a position he held until his retirement in January 1985.
Rights:
Restricted. Contact SIHistory@si.edu to request permission.
Topic:
World War, 1939-1945  Search this
Science -- History  Search this
Technology -- History  Search this
African Americans -- History  Search this
Paleontology  Search this
Aeronautics  Search this
Military history  Search this
Museum curators -- United States -- Interviews  Search this
Oral history  Search this
Interviews  Search this
African American air pilots  Search this
Genre/Form:
Audiotapes
Transcripts
Citation:
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 9578, Louis R. Purnell Oral History Interviews
Identifier:
Record Unit 9578
See more items in:
Louis R. Purnell Oral History Interviews
Archival Repository:
Smithsonian Institution Archives
EDAN-URL:
ead_collection:sova-sia-faru9578

Interviews

Collection Creator::
Purnell, Louis R., interviewee  Search this
Type:
Archival materials
Collection Rights:
Restricted. Contact SIHistory@si.edu to request permission.
Collection Citation:
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 9578, Louis R. Purnell Oral History Interviews
See more items in:
Louis R. Purnell Oral History Interviews
Archival Repository:
Smithsonian Institution Archives
EDAN-URL:
ead_component:sova-sia-faru9578-refidd1e304

Interview 1: December 15, 1993

Collection Creator::
Purnell, Louis R., interviewee  Search this
Container:
Interviews
Type:
Archival materials
Collection Rights:
Restricted. Contact SIHistory@si.edu to request permission.
Collection Citation:
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 9578, Louis R. Purnell Oral History Interviews
See more items in:
Louis R. Purnell Oral History Interviews
Louis R. Purnell Oral History Interviews / Interviews
Archival Repository:
Smithsonian Institution Archives
EDAN-URL:
ead_component:sova-sia-faru9578-refidd1e311

Covers childhood in Delaware, experiences at Lincoln University, and aviation training, including: Differences in education between Wilmington, Delaware, and Cape May, New Jersey; family life during the Great Depression; experiences as one of few Afric...

Collection Creator::
Purnell, Louis R., interviewee  Search this
Container:
Interviews
Type:
Archival materials
Collection Rights:
Restricted. Contact SIHistory@si.edu to request permission.
Collection Citation:
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 9578, Louis R. Purnell Oral History Interviews
See more items in:
Louis R. Purnell Oral History Interviews
Louis R. Purnell Oral History Interviews / Interviews
Archival Repository:
Smithsonian Institution Archives
EDAN-URL:
ead_component:sova-sia-faru9578-refidd1e326
Online Media:

Transcript, pp. 1-40, of audiotape recording, 1.5 hours.

Collection Creator::
Purnell, Louis R., interviewee  Search this
Container:
Interviews
Type:
Archival materials
Collection Rights:
Restricted. Contact SIHistory@si.edu to request permission.
Collection Citation:
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 9578, Louis R. Purnell Oral History Interviews
See more items in:
Louis R. Purnell Oral History Interviews
Louis R. Purnell Oral History Interviews / Interviews
Archival Repository:
Smithsonian Institution Archives
EDAN-URL:
ead_component:sova-sia-faru9578-refidd1e353

Audio Recordings of Interviews: Total Recording Time: 1.5 hours

Collection Creator::
Purnell, Louis R., interviewee  Search this
Container:
Interviews
Type:
Archival materials
Collection Rights:
Restricted. Contact SIHistory@si.edu to request permission.
Collection Citation:
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 9578, Louis R. Purnell Oral History Interviews
See more items in:
Louis R. Purnell Oral History Interviews
Louis R. Purnell Oral History Interviews / Interviews
Archival Repository:
Smithsonian Institution Archives
EDAN-URL:
ead_component:sova-sia-faru9578-refidd1e364

Interview 2: December 22, 1993

Collection Creator::
Purnell, Louis R., interviewee  Search this
Container:
Interviews
Type:
Archival materials
Collection Rights:
Restricted. Contact SIHistory@si.edu to request permission.
Collection Citation:
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 9578, Louis R. Purnell Oral History Interviews
See more items in:
Louis R. Purnell Oral History Interviews
Louis R. Purnell Oral History Interviews / Interviews
Archival Repository:
Smithsonian Institution Archives
EDAN-URL:
ead_component:sova-sia-faru9578-refidd1e388

Covers experiences in Tuskegee, Alabama; civilian and military aviation training; missions during World War II; reminiscences of individuals met during military service; and return from the war, including: Relationship between the town and base in Tusk...

Collection Creator::
Purnell, Louis R., interviewee  Search this
Container:
Interviews
Type:
Archival materials
Collection Rights:
Restricted. Contact SIHistory@si.edu to request permission.
Collection Citation:
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 9578, Louis R. Purnell Oral History Interviews
See more items in:
Louis R. Purnell Oral History Interviews
Louis R. Purnell Oral History Interviews / Interviews
Archival Repository:
Smithsonian Institution Archives
EDAN-URL:
ead_component:sova-sia-faru9578-refidd1e403

Transcript, pp. 41-85, of audiotape recording, 2.0 hours.

Collection Creator::
Purnell, Louis R., interviewee  Search this
Container:
Interviews
Type:
Archival materials
Collection Rights:
Restricted. Contact SIHistory@si.edu to request permission.
Collection Citation:
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 9578, Louis R. Purnell Oral History Interviews
See more items in:
Louis R. Purnell Oral History Interviews
Louis R. Purnell Oral History Interviews / Interviews
Archival Repository:
Smithsonian Institution Archives
EDAN-URL:
ead_component:sova-sia-faru9578-refidd1e414

Audio Recordings of Interviews: Total Recording Time: 2.0 hours

Collection Creator::
Purnell, Louis R., interviewee  Search this
Container:
Interviews
Type:
Archival materials
Collection Rights:
Restricted. Contact SIHistory@si.edu to request permission.
Collection Citation:
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 9578, Louis R. Purnell Oral History Interviews
See more items in:
Louis R. Purnell Oral History Interviews
Louis R. Purnell Oral History Interviews / Interviews
Archival Repository:
Smithsonian Institution Archives
EDAN-URL:
ead_component:sova-sia-faru9578-refidd1e425

Interview 3: December 28, 1993

Collection Creator::
Purnell, Louis R., interviewee  Search this
Container:
Interviews
Type:
Archival materials
Collection Rights:
Restricted. Contact SIHistory@si.edu to request permission.
Collection Citation:
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 9578, Louis R. Purnell Oral History Interviews
See more items in:
Louis R. Purnell Oral History Interviews
Louis R. Purnell Oral History Interviews / Interviews
Archival Repository:
Smithsonian Institution Archives
EDAN-URL:
ead_component:sova-sia-faru9578-refidd1e448

Covers his return to Lincoln University; move to Washington, D.C.; work at Quartermaster General and U.S. Book Exchange; reminiscences of work and interactions with staff at the NMNH and NASM, including: Circumstances surrounding article he wrote for A...

Collection Creator::
Purnell, Louis R., interviewee  Search this
Container:
Interviews
Type:
Archival materials
Collection Rights:
Restricted. Contact SIHistory@si.edu to request permission.
Collection Citation:
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 9578, Louis R. Purnell Oral History Interviews
See more items in:
Louis R. Purnell Oral History Interviews
Louis R. Purnell Oral History Interviews / Interviews
Archival Repository:
Smithsonian Institution Archives
EDAN-URL:
ead_component:sova-sia-faru9578-refidd1e463

Transcript, pp. 86-133, of audiotape recording, 2.0 hours.

Collection Creator::
Purnell, Louis R., interviewee  Search this
Container:
Interviews
Type:
Archival materials
Collection Rights:
Restricted. Contact SIHistory@si.edu to request permission.
Collection Citation:
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 9578, Louis R. Purnell Oral History Interviews
See more items in:
Louis R. Purnell Oral History Interviews
Louis R. Purnell Oral History Interviews / Interviews
Archival Repository:
Smithsonian Institution Archives
EDAN-URL:
ead_component:sova-sia-faru9578-refidd1e482

Audio Recordings of Interviews: Total Recording Time: 2.0 hours

Collection Creator::
Purnell, Louis R., interviewee  Search this
Container:
Interviews
Type:
Archival materials
Collection Rights:
Restricted. Contact SIHistory@si.edu to request permission.
Collection Citation:
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 9578, Louis R. Purnell Oral History Interviews
See more items in:
Louis R. Purnell Oral History Interviews
Louis R. Purnell Oral History Interviews / Interviews
Archival Repository:
Smithsonian Institution Archives
EDAN-URL:
ead_component:sova-sia-faru9578-refidd1e493

Interview 4: January 5, 1994

Collection Creator::
Purnell, Louis R., interviewee  Search this
Container:
Interviews
Type:
Archival materials
Collection Rights:
Restricted. Contact SIHistory@si.edu to request permission.
Collection Citation:
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 9578, Louis R. Purnell Oral History Interviews
See more items in:
Louis R. Purnell Oral History Interviews
Louis R. Purnell Oral History Interviews / Interviews
Archival Repository:
Smithsonian Institution Archives
EDAN-URL:
ead_component:sova-sia-faru9578-refidd1e516

Covers his tenure at NASM, the growth of NASM's collections and exhibit space; reminiscences of staff, and increasing public interest in astronautics, including: NASM's use of the Arts & Industries Building; construction of the NASM building; challenge...

Collection Creator::
Purnell, Louis R., interviewee  Search this
Container:
Interviews
Type:
Archival materials
Collection Rights:
Restricted. Contact SIHistory@si.edu to request permission.
Collection Citation:
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 9578, Louis R. Purnell Oral History Interviews
See more items in:
Louis R. Purnell Oral History Interviews
Louis R. Purnell Oral History Interviews / Interviews
Archival Repository:
Smithsonian Institution Archives
EDAN-URL:
ead_component:sova-sia-faru9578-refidd1e531

Transcript, pp. 134-171, of audiotape recording, 1.5 hours.

Collection Creator::
Purnell, Louis R., interviewee  Search this
Container:
Interviews
Type:
Archival materials
Collection Rights:
Restricted. Contact SIHistory@si.edu to request permission.
Collection Citation:
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 9578, Louis R. Purnell Oral History Interviews
See more items in:
Louis R. Purnell Oral History Interviews
Louis R. Purnell Oral History Interviews / Interviews
Archival Repository:
Smithsonian Institution Archives
EDAN-URL:
ead_component:sova-sia-faru9578-refidd1e550

Audio Recordings of Interviews: Total Recording Time: 1.5 hours

Collection Creator::
Purnell, Louis R., interviewee  Search this
Container:
Interviews
Type:
Archival materials
Collection Rights:
Restricted. Contact SIHistory@si.edu to request permission.
Collection Citation:
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 9578, Louis R. Purnell Oral History Interviews
See more items in:
Louis R. Purnell Oral History Interviews
Louis R. Purnell Oral History Interviews / Interviews
Archival Repository:
Smithsonian Institution Archives
EDAN-URL:
ead_component:sova-sia-faru9578-refidd1e561

Interview 5: January 14, 1994

Collection Creator::
Purnell, Louis R., interviewee  Search this
Container:
Interviews
Type:
Archival materials
Collection Rights:
Restricted. Contact SIHistory@si.edu to request permission.
Collection Citation:
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 9578, Louis R. Purnell Oral History Interviews
See more items in:
Louis R. Purnell Oral History Interviews
Louis R. Purnell Oral History Interviews / Interviews
Archival Repository:
Smithsonian Institution Archives
EDAN-URL:
ead_component:sova-sia-faru9578-refidd1e585

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