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Learn about the rich collection of artifacts and art held by the Balloon Museum

A large ceramic bowl with balloon drawings


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Balloon Museum Collection


The Balloon Museum’s permanent collection is made up primarily of generous donations over the years from balloonists, collectors and other institutions from all over the world. From the first balloon flight in 1783 to pilots still exploring the skies today, the museum tells stories of hot air and gas balloons that have been used for adventure, scientific experiments, the arts, warfare, espionage and space exploration. The museum has many important collections that highlight world-renowned balloonists and historical events throughout the years. Below is a small sampling of a few special collections currently on display in the museum.

Soukup & Thomas Collection

Soukup & Thomas International Balloon & Airship Museum was founded by Jacques Soukup and Kirk S. Thomas in the 1980s in Mitchell, SD. The museum closed in 2000 and its entire collection was donated to the Balloon Museum in 2001. This is the largest special collection in the Balloon Museum and many of the objects are currently on display. These artifacts span early ballooning in the 18th century to more contemporary ephemera from various rallies, races, and other gatherings.

First Balloon Flight Painting

PB2002.001.2211, First Balloon Flight Painting, 19th Century

Framed oil painting of balloon in the sky with 2 gentlemen in the basket with an angel sitting on top of the balloon. The banner across the top reads "L'Amour dans le Globe". Painted by L. le Grand. 12 3/4 x 12 3/4 in. (32.4 x 32.4 cm)

"First Manned Flights" Medallion

PB2002.001.9516.3, "First Manned Flights" Medallion

Medallion depicting the first two balloons of hot air and gas. Made by order of French King Louis XVI (1754-1793) by French sculptor Augustin Pajou (1730 – 1809). Latin inscription: Audacia Felix, Aera permearunt L. F. Darlandes et F. Pilatre. I Dec. J.a.c. Charles et M.N. Robert Anno MDCCCLXXXIII. Patefacto per aera itinere a Josepho et Stephano Montgolfier V. Jun II MDCCLXXXIII. Rei Memoriam Posteritati Tradi Jussit Ludovicus XVI. Anno MDCCLXXXXIV. Dia.: 1 5/8 in. (4.2 cm) [Translation: Fortunate is he who attempts audacious things, legend of other flights of LF D'Arlandes and F Pilatre, 21 Nov 1783; JAC Charles and MN Robert, 1 Dec 1783. Struck in commemoration of the Journey of Joseph and Stephen Montgolfier 5th Jun 1783. As a remembrance to posterity by order of Louis XVI. Year 1784.]


Anderson Family Collection

The second-largest collection of the Balloon Museum comes from the family of Maxie Anderson, one of the namesakes of the Balloon Museum, and the Maxie L. Anderson Foundation. This is a gradually expanding collection that first began with donations in 2004. Maxie Anderson was well known for his flights of the Double Eagle I, II, and V, the Kitty Hawk, and Jules Verne that are talked about in various exhibits throughout the Balloon Museum.    


Jules Verne Valve      

PB2004.007.027, Jules Verne Valve, 1980

An electronic apex valve, model #HEV-2, serial number 195, made by Winzen Research International. It's a circular valve with a motor drive mounted to top forming a pyramidal shape. Used on the Jules Verne. 7 1/2 × 17 diam in. (19.1 × 43.2 cm)

Double Eagle II Balloon Mail    Ballast Log for Kitty Hawk, May 8 – 12, 1980

Left: PB2004.007.173.1, Double Eagle II Balloon Mail, Sept 9 1977. Balloon mail carried on board the flight of the Double Eagle, signed by Maxie Anderson and Ben Abruzzo. Postmark Marshfield MA 4 × 9 1/2 in. (10.2 × 24.1 cm)

Right: PB2004.007.242.3, Ballast Log for Kitty Hawk, May 8 – 12, 1980. A notebook labeled as the ballast log for the Kitty Hawk. Written by Maxie Anderson during the flight.


Oral History Project

As part of the Museum's dedication to preserving the history of ballooning, its curatorial team has collected personal interviews from hot air and gas balloonists of all kinds, plus other people involved in the sport. This growing collection includes interviews with Colonel Joe Kittinger, sport balloonists Barbara Fricke and Cheri White, local meteorologist Steve Stucker, crew chief Shannon Baxter, and more.