Explore the Aviation Collection

Example from Aviation Collection

The Aviation Collection consists of approximately 11,500 volumes, particularly monographs in Dewey Decimal classification numbers 533.6 (Aeromechanics) and 629.1 (Aerospace engineering), plus periodical runs, photographs and vertical file materials.

Seattle was a significant location in the early development of flight. Early aviators built and tested their flying machines here: delivering mail to Alaska and medicines to inland communities, and using the airfields to depart on record setting feats, including the first flight circumnavigating the globe. Learn about aviation’s early history through publications developed by airplane manufacturers Boeing, Curtiss and Douglas, from 1930 to 1950.

This collection is non-circulating and can be accessed by appointment through the Hugh and Jane Ferguson Seattle Room, located at the Central Library on Level 10. Appointments are available on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays between 1 p.m. – 5 p.m. You may book 30 minutes to 2 hours of time.

Preview the Collection

Using the catalog’s advanced search you can retrieve results for this collection by limiting the search using the ‘Collections’ drop down menu and selecting any of the Level 10 Collections with ‘AERO’ listed.

About the Collection

The Aviation Collection was started in 1928 with a gift from the young Boeing Company to create a library focused on aviation development. Boeing itself did not have a research library for its engineers who were working hard in commercial and military aviation to produce planes for both domestic use and combat. As World War II approached, the company focused on its military contracts. The Aviation Collection added materials about the history of flight including early works on balloon travel, kites, and "flying machines". Titles were also added about how the aircraft performed in various settings, notably in combat and in domestic travel. Technical manuals on the design, operation and repair of airplane and jet engines were added. Company annual reports and other publications such as manufacturing catalogs were also collected.

In the early years Boeing staff would visit the collection about once a week, doing research and checking out materials. When the company started its own research library, use by Boeing employees decreased. Yet the collection continued to grow until the 1950s when the acquisitions budget was reduced and less new materials were added.

Dissatisfied with the limited subject indexing available via book cataloging, and given the wealth of information contained in the Aviation Collection, librarians in the past supplemented the indexing available in the (then) card catalog with the Aviation Collection Index (ACI), located inside the Seattle Room.

Aviation related newspaper articles are also referenced in the ACI, providing access to the Seattle Times (ST) and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer (PI), New York Times (NYT), as well as Flight and Aviation Week magazine issues in the Aviation Collection. Indexing spans the years from the 1950s to the 1990s.