A seven-year renovation project was announced by The Smithsonian to breathe new life into the National Air and Space Museum.

The Washington DC building will undergo an overhaul including the replacement of mechanical systems and the refacing of its exterior cladding.

All of the museum’s 23 galleries and presentation spaces will be completely updated.

“Transformation of exhibitions begins a new era for the museum,” said Gen. J.R. “Jack” Dailey, the John and Adrienne Mars Director of the National Air and Space Museum.

“We’re developing innovative ways to experience America’s favourite museum through exhibitions that merge modern technology and design to highlight legendary aircraft and spacecraft.”

The work will begin in the summer of 2018 and be divided into two phases, to make sure that the museum is still open to visitors.

The west side of the museum, which holds nine exhibitions is the first area set for the revamp. Some parts of the building have not been renovated since the National Air and Space Museum’s opening 41 years ago.

The exhibitions will be improved by grouping by theme for a better visitor experience and easier navigation around the building.

“The icons people associate with the National Air and Space Museum are as inspiring today as they were when they made history,” said Peter Jakab, chief curator.

“But through stimulating new exhibition techniques and innovative digital engagement, we will tell exciting and relevant stories in ways that resonate with our modern communication-savvy world that can be readily shared with broad audiences.”

National Air and Space Museum’s new exhibitions

The revamped areas will show favourite items in new settings. The Apollo 11 command module Columbia will be housed in a climate-controlled case. It takes centre state of the Destination Moon exhibition.

Other artifacts include 3D photography and notes made by the crew inside Columbia, revealing  the module interior which previously was hidden to the public.

Newly acquired items on view are the Nemesis NXT Air Racer, the first kit-built airplane that flies faster than 400 mph. It will be displayed in an exhibition called Nation of Speed.

Demonstrations and discussions by experts are held in the presentations spaces. These will then be shared via online webcasts.

Exploring the Planets incorporates a tour of the solar system, together with an interactive experience of what it’s like to walk in an alien world.

The Smithsonian estimates the total cost of the building renovation is around $650 million. The museum also needs to raise and extra $250 million for new exhibitions through private sources.

Image: National Air and Space Museum