Museum of Aviation curator helps share Air Force story

jgordon@macon.comMay 25, 2014 

Michael Rowland, curator of the Museum of Aviation at Robins Air Force Base, stands in front of an F-84 Thunderjet exhibit in the Eagle Building. The aircraft was used as a fighter bomber providing close air support during the Korean War.

JENNY GORDON — For The Telegraph

As a curator in one of the country’s largest aviation museums, Michael Rowland is a storyteller whose mission is to help share the Air Force story.

As a child who grew up with a heritage of Naval military service from his father, red, white and blue runs deep in this Connecticut native’s blood.

“I loved hearing my dad tell stories about being on submarines. A lot of what he did was just cruising along under the water,” recalled Rowland. “They trained a lot because they had to be ready for anything. So I grew up on submarine history, while also developing an interest in aviation history and military history in general.”

Rowland, who graduated with a master’s degree in museum studies from the University of Florida, is himself an Air Force veteran of six years. He was immersed in the field of aircraft and munitions maintenance while serving his country.

His interest in museums grew while on active duty. He began working with the Museum of Aviation at Robins Air Force Base in 2004 and became its curator responsible for artifact collection in 2008.

He still gets a thrill driving to work each day, seeing aircraft tails poking up through the tall trees in the distance.

Inside the campus among the dozens of exhibits, he and his team members are charged with communicating the message to the public about the Air Force and its mission of global vigilance, power and reach.

He takes his job to heart when it comes to exhibit development, helping people understand the historical significance and human element of every story.

He’s surrounded on a daily basis by a proud living history, explaining, “Everything here was touched by people. That’s what really makes it interesting to me. I look at them, and I think about the people who were involved -- the pilots, the maintainers who kept them flying, and the people who designed the planes.”

Reflecting on this Memorial Day, there is a deep respect and appreciation in his voice for those who have lived and died fighting in our nation’s wars.

“I am in awe of the men and women of our military who do so much, who sacrifice so much,” he said. “Throughout our nation’s history, we have sent people all over the world. We ask so much of them. We ask so much of their families.”

“We have wonderful people in the military who give and do so much to protect our nation and our nation’s interests. It’s inspiring,” he said. “I think it’s very important to remember what has been done for us -- and what is being done for us today.”

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