Wisconsin Aviation Hall of Fame Launches Photo Digitization Campaign

The organization is raising money to hire a professional preservation company to digitize Leo Kohn’s entire aviation photography collection.

Beechcraft 35 Bonanza, Maitland Airstrip, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. October 16, 1947. [Courtesy: Wisconsin Aviation Hall of Fame Leo J. Kohn Photography Collection]

If you have ever taken on the project of transferring photographs to digital storage, you know what an investment it can be both finances and time. The Wisconsin Aviation Hall of Fame (WAHF) is on a mission to digitize the Leo Kohn aviation photography collection—all 34,000 negatives stored in protective envelopes—and it can use your help.

The late Kohn, from Brookfield, Wisconsin, spent his life behind a camera and immersed in aviation. He authored several books that were filled with his photography. Among the titles still available are The Story of the Texan (American Flight Manuals), Pilot's Handbook for Model YB-49 Airplane, and the Armchair Aviator series. If you couldn’t make it out to the airport, curling up with one of these books could be the next best thing.

Boeing YB-29J, "Pacsuan Dreamboat" [Courtesy: Wisconsin Aviation Hall of Fame Leo J. Kohn Photography Collection]

The photos and the documentation provided on each image span decades of work. The Hall of Fame is seeking to raise approximately $65,000 for the project, which includes hiring a professional preservation company to digitize the entire collection in order to make it accessible to the public through an online archive. In addition, the funds will be used to create a searchable website, educational materials, outreach activities, and museum exhibits to showcase the collection's significance.

According to the WAHF, the aviation community has already contributed approximately 33 percent of the necessary funds as of May 10.

"We are excited to embark on this fundraising campaign to ensure that the legacy of Leo Kohn lives on," said Dan Silvers, WAHF’s historic image preservation chair. "The digitization of this collection will not only preserve these priceless images but also make them accessible to aviation enthusiasts, historians, and researchers worldwide."

North American SNJ-5 Texan, June 1947. [Courtesy: Wisconsin Aviation Hall of Fame Leo J. Kohn Photography Collection]

Organizers note that special care will be taken to ensure that each image is properly identified, and described. This will include the documentation of key details such as the date, location, aircraft type, engine, and color scheme, as so many of the photographs are in black and white.

For those who would like to learn more about Kohn, who died in 2014 at age 86, there is an exhibit of his work opening at the Kelch Aviation Museum in Broadhead, Wisconsin, on June 9.

Meg Godlewski has been an aviation journalist for more than 24 years and a CFI for more than 20 years. If she is not flying or teaching aviation, she is writing about it. Meg is a founding member of the Pilot Proficiency Center at EAA AirVenture and excels at the application of simulation technology to flatten the learning curve. Follow Meg on Twitter @2Lewski.

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