From the Hangars

Collections Spotlight: Plane Art with our Summer Intern

Jun 27, 2023

I’m honored to be the Delta Flight Museum Archive’s Summer Intern. Currently, I’m a PhD student at Georgia State University and I work as a Digital Projects Graduate Research Assistant in the digital archives along with other roles at the university. This is my first experience working in a physical archive, and I’ve been fortunate to begin my position simultaneously with the arrival of a new archival collection. 

When I first heard about Delta Flight Attendant Jewel Van Valin’s “Plane Art” program she created in the wake of 9/11, my first thought was, “Wow!” Her idea of encouraging passengers to draw on the cloths lining their tray tables was so simple and innovative!

Plane art 

Through drawing landscapes, cartoon characters, planes, people, and so many other images, passengers felt, at once, eased and excited. The calming act of putting pen to paper, or crayon to paper in this case, allowed Delta passengers to briefly be lost in their imaginations and forget their fears; something sorely needed after the tragedy of the 9/11 attack on the Twin Towers in New York City, NY.

Jewel donated thousands of drawings she collected over her career to the museum, and I’m so lucky to be the person unpacking the materials and processing the art! Over the course of my internship, I will work with museum exhibit and archive staff to organize, document, store, and hopefully display these drawings.

One of my favorite drawings from the collection depicts an elephant walking away through the jungle. It is goofy, whimsical, and perfectly captures the purpose of this project which was for passengers to have fun and forget about their fears, if even for a brief moment.

Elephant drawing

My directors and mentors are exposing me to the processes that go into taking archival material from its arrival to being displayed in the museum for everyone to see. 

Archival care

This is one of the coolest projects I’ve ever been a part of as well as one of the greatest educational experiences of my career. I want to send a special thank you to the archive and museum exhibit staff for teaching me and for the opportunity to take part in this fascinating collection!

Rachel Elena Woods

Doctoral Student at Georgia State University (English Rhetoric and Composition)

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  1. Gloria Bilancio | Oct 15, 2023

    WOW! This is amazing. Human kindness at its best☺️ In times of difficulty such as 9/11 it brings so much hope when people such as flight attendant Ms Jewel Van Valen helps other to cope w their fears.

    I am deeply moved that Delta Airlines honors such kindness.

    I look forward to seeing this art on display.

    Thank you ❤️

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