HIDDEN NEAR THE SOUTHERN BOUNDARY OF SUMMIT COUNTY IN THE CITY OF GREEN, is one of the best kept secrets in the Akron/ Canton area—a small museum officially known as the Military Aviation Preservation Society Air Museum, or MAPS for short. Located on the west side of the Akron Canton Regional Airport, the museum, founded by 14 aviation enthusiasts in 1990, has a stated mission of “educating people about the history of aviation and its impact upon society”. It accomplishes this mission by acquiring, restoring, preserving, studying, and displaying aircraft and then using these vintage aircraft and associated military artifacts to educate the community on how aviation history has shaped this world.
The history of aviation, however, was not made by airplanes, but by the men and women who designed, built, and flew them. Many of the aircraft and most of the displays have a local connection—ties to local men and women. The stories of these connections is what makes MAPS a special place—where history takes flight.
For those that have never visited the MAPS Air Museum, you feel it when you first step through the doors to the hangar. You are surrounded by aviation history—by extraordinary aircraft! Visitors can view a collection of almost 50 aircraft including one that was designed, built, and flown by a local farmer, Canton resident William Martin, in 1909. From a World War I era Sopwith Triplane to a World War II vintage C-47 Skytrain—from a Korean War era F-86 Sabre to a modern F-16 fighter, the aircraft are there to view and to touch.
Central to any visit to the MAPS Air Museum is experiencing the Gallery of Heroes display room. Visitors often find themselves entranced by the displays of artifacts and memorabilia and spend a majority of their visit time in this one area. The stories that visitors will be introduced to are not those that you will find in history books, but rather those of local men and women who served. It is those stories and the real pieces of history displayed that make history come to life.
The Pearl Harbor display at the heart of the Gallery is one that should not be missed during a visit to MAPS. The focal point of the display is a single artifact. That artifact is a piece of the superstructure of the battleship U.S.S. Arizona—the same ship that was destroyed on December 7, 1941 and one that still lies under the waters of Pearl Harbor today.
View a Western Union telegraph sent to a World War II family that begins with the words “The Secretary of War desired me to express his deep regret that your son…”, read a letter sent home by an American POW and hear his comments about life in a German POW camp. These and more are the things that make MAPS a place “Where History Takes Flight”.
With education being a central part of the MAPS mission statement, the museum focuses much of its efforts on providing a hands-on educational experience that forms the bridge between the classroom and a student’s understanding of history. MAPS Educational programs are primarily, but not exclusively, focused on teaching the next generation about the role played by aviation and aviators on the culture and society that we currently enjoy.
Scout programs include Cub Scout/Girl Scout days held twice per year that enable the attendees to reach out and touch (and in some cases, sit in) real pieces of history. The annual Boy Scout campout allows participating scouts to not only spend a weekend among historical aircraft, but to complete all of the requirements of the Aviation Merit Badge in the process.
For high school students, the museum offers a rare opportunity for United States history classes from local public schools to experience history from a practical perspective. MAPS receives grants from the John A. McAlonan Fund of the Akron Community Foundation, the Stark Community Foundation, the Timken Company and the J.M. Smucker Company to provide participating schools with a no-cost history field trip as the grants cover all school transportation and substitute teacher costs. During the 2015—2016 school year, 2,793 students and 122 teachers from 21 high schools in Stark, Summit and Wayne counties participated in this program.
The local Career Center at Portage Lakes initiated an Aviation Technology program during the 2015—16 school year. MAPS has provided classroom and laboratory spaces within the museum to enable high school students to explore and train in the field of Aviation Technology. From studies of aviation history, student’s progress into the areas of aircraft components, aerodynamics, air traffic control, airspace management, navigation, and weather. Additional program enhancements introduce students to the fields of aviation maintenance, aerospace engineering, and aircraft structures with practical hands-on experiences on MAPS aircraft built into the program.
The MAPS Air Academy is a 10-week program designed for students ages 10 and up with a parent, grandparent or guardian. Conducted in two-hour blocks on Sundays during the summer months, the program covers a wide range of topics, from the history of aviation through rocket theory and pre-flight procedures to hands-on practice with flight simulators.
As with any volunteer organization, it is the efforts and dedication of its members that makes that organization successful. Under the direction of the MAPS Executive Director and Board of Directors, the museum has grown from the original 14 volunteer members to over 1,100 volunteer members. These volunteers donated almost 54,000 volunteer hours during the 2016 calendar year, either working at the museum or working on museum projects. This dedication and effort has paid off with the increased popularity of the venue. Over the past ten years, the number of guests has grown from 4,796 visitors in 2006 to 36,844 visitors in 2016.
Many of the members are veterans who have served in this nation’s armed forces—some of whom worked with the aircraft similar to those that are displayed at the museum. Three MAPS members are World War II pilots who flew combat missions in Europe and in the Pacific. There are even a few of the volunteer members who flew, armed, serviced, or maintained the actual aircraft that ultimately ended up as part of the displayed collection! A large number of the members are retirees who have found that the overabundance of free time is not what they expected out of retirement and want to make a difference and find the time to volunteer. The volunteers serve in various capacities and work on their own schedules. Some volunteer as tour guides, some work in the gift shop, canteen or library. Others volunteer in the restoration area, working on bringing vintage aircraft back to life. Still others catalog, prepare, maintain, and arrange the museum’s nonaircraft displays as part of the curator staff.
MAPS has recently embarked on an expansion program that will ultimately open the second floor of the main hangar to the public. This expansion will enable MAPS to improve its ability to teach about the history of aviation as well as enhancing the support provided to the community and to the local area. This expansion started with installation of an elevator to take guests to the upper floor of the hangar and renovation of a display room that will house the collection of the former Massillon Military Museum. As the renovation continues, MAPS will renovate a space for a meeting/classroom on the second floor, as well as additional restrooms. Future plans call for the renovation of spaces for three additional display areas for the Ohio National Guard, an F-100 Super Sabre historical group “Friends of the Super Sabre”, and an extension of the museum’s own Gallery of Heroes. The final phase of the 2nd floor renovation program calls for construction of a kitchen and a 250-seat conference center with windows overlooking the Akron-Canton Regional Airport. This conference center, when completed, will be able to be divided into two smaller conference rooms.
MAPS also hosts a number of events throughout the year including birthday parties, weddings and wedding receptions, retirement parties, corporate training sessions, trade shows, car shows, and other events. Perhaps the largest event that will be held during the 2017 calendar year is a visit by the Collings Foundation on August 11, 12 and 13. During this three day weekend, the Collings group will be flying in four World War II vintage aircraft— a B-17 Flying Fortress bomber, a B-24 Liberator bomber, a B-25 Mitchell bomber and a P-51 Mustang fighter. Visitors during this event will be able to view and to climb in these vintage aircraft and even purchase rides in them.
The MAPS Air Museum is open throughout the year. The hours of operation are typically 9am
to 4:30pm, Tuesdays through Saturdays, and 11:30am to 4pm on Sundays. For additional
information on the museum, hours of operation and on upcoming events, go to the MAPS
website at www.mapsairmuseum.org.
Reed J. Kimball, COL, USAR (Ret) Director of Education, MAPS
MAPS Air Museum
Where History Takes Flight