The sky was clear at the Abraham Lincoln Airport in Springfield, Illinois last Sunday when we arrived searching for the EAA and their visiting B-17. My husband Keith had a flight in this historic traveling museum booked, and I was along for the history and to see the smile on his face that he still hasn’t quite wiped off. While searching, we stopped at the first building not quite sure where to go. While there, we met air enthusiast, journalist and author Job Conger. It didn’t take me long to recognize his name because I have seen it in print many times over the years. Job was kind enough to show us the way to the B-17 since he was traveling that way as well.
By the end of the morning, Keith had Job’s two books, Images of Aviation, Springfield Aviation (which he has already read cover to cover) and John Thorton Walker, Story of a Hero Who Didn’t Come Home and we had learned that Job is the director of a fascinating museum all about aviation called the Aero-Know Museum. Since I love history and Keith loves aviation we made plans to visit and tour. I loved the fact that he said the cover of his Images book with a picture of a young woman in a flight outfit was of a former Miss Illinois. “This was at the grand opening of the airport,” Job said.
He added that the airport didn’t last long because it didn’t work for commercial air. The Miss Illinois on the cover turned out to be a neighbor of Jobs when he was growing up. “I knew her and her children,” he added.
The Aero-Know museum is a true media library and archive. Job has photos of almost any plane that you could want to know about. Job has been working on scanning photos. “I would like to be able to reproduce any request,” he said.
Job has been interested in air since he was a child. He started keeping magazines rather than discarding them and to be able to easily find them, he created an abbreviation system. In 1977 he first incorporated as AIRCHIVE, a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization to share his flight interest, then renamed the collection in 1995 to the Aero-Know Museum. The museum has been located at Springfield Airport since 2010.
When the museum first opened, Springfield Journal Register columnist Dave Baake did a column about the museum opening profiling Job and his collection. After our arrival late Friday afternoon soon Keith and Job were off and running sharing air stories. I listened and looked. I did pick up that before Charles Lindbergh, before became famous for his nonstop solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean in 1927, first flew the U.S. mail between Springfield, Chicago and St. Louis for the Robertson Aircraft Corporation. Job regaled us with stories of flights from what was then Bosa field that is now reverted to a farm field. In an article http://sangamoncountyhistory.org/wp/?p=1789 I learned that Boy Scouts have marked the fields he used. I would like to go out and see them at some point and time. I’m a sucker for road stops and local festivals!
I remember going to the Air Rendezvous air shows when my kids were younger. Sadly there are no air shows in Springfield anymore, but Job has the history including photos, memorabilia and more of this momentous event. “I wrote programs for 22 years for the Air Rendezvous,” Job shared. “The last air show was in 2006. I was their first PR director.”
At the AeroKnow museum, air enthusiasts can find pictures, transparencies, slides and negatives. “I also have several 5 x 7 photo enlargements,” Job added.
Job knows and has literature of almost any air history you can think of, he has a great collection of model airplanes that everyone will enjoy. “Most of my life I’ve tried to get people interested in an air museum,” Job said. “You can learn almost as much from properly built models with proper colors than a full sized plane. These models are very nicely done.”
Most of the models in the museum collection are of a 1/72 scale in which, one inch equals six feet. Model years vary and along with the models, there is also a large collection of technical manuals as well. “These manuals are important for both modelers and historians,” Job said.
Upstairs the museum continues. Outside of the rooms, in the hall is a lovely display of advertising collages that bring airplanes and vehicles to life in living color. Inside the research room are files Job said, “Of almost an airport that can be named, and of airplanes around the world.”
The model kit room contains airplane kits some going all the way back to WWII. The goal is to build them all, but from the looks, that would take a lot of people building around the clock! The kits contain planes from all over the world and a few kits have come from correspondents, like the one a fellow writer sent while visiting Russia. Job also had a few copies of Nazi propaganda magazines too. No matter what you are looking for, if it is air related, Job can probably find it, or at least know where to look.
Inside the model kit room there is also a kit like the first one that Job put together, a Hawk Mig-15. I was able to get Job to pose for a picture holding the model that started his collecting.
The Aero-Know Museum is big in the way of collection, but tight in the way of space, so don’t bring a big group, but a few at a time. Speaking of time, it will take an hour for what Job calls, “The B tour” and more like 90 minutes for the “A tour”. Come with your questions and prepare to be awed. While I enjoyed the wonderful collection, what I loved was that Job can pull out a picture, article or model and have a story to go with it. It is clear he is passionate about the museum and this is a treasure that should be shared.
To schedule a tour, call 217-544-6122, or email Job at firstname.lastname@example.org. Job is always looking for volunteers so if you have a love of aviation, he has plenty for you to do! The museum website is www.aeroknow.com.