James Dean Collection
Scope and Content
The collection consists of reference material NASA artist James Dean used in producing the artwork for Michael Collins' book Liftoff: The Story of America's Adventure in Space. The bulk of the contents include NASA file photos, files from the twelve Gemini missions, the majority of Apollo missions (mostly Apollo 11), the Spacelab project, the Hubble telescope, space shuttle missions, the Challenger accident, and many other NASA related subjects. Also included are photos from the Project Mercury missions, images of NASA aircraft, NASA promotional material, and photos of U.S. officials and NASA personnel. An original rough draft copy of Liftoff, divided by chapter, is included. The additional materials added to this collection include magazines, posters, and notes on NASA missions. The additional materials primarily include materials relating to the book Journey into Space by James Dean.
- 1961 - 1988
Language of Materials
The materials in the collection are in English.
Conditions Governing Access
The collection is open for research.
Conditions Governing Reproduction and Use
Prior permission of James Dean to quote from the collection during his lifetime is required. Copyright restrictions may apply. Contact Special Collections and University Archives for assistance in determining the use of these materials.
Reproduction or digitization of materials for personal or research use can be requested using our reproduction/digitization form: http://bit.ly/scuareproduction. Reproduction or digitization of materials for publication or exhibit use can be requested using our publication/exhibition form: http://bit.ly/scuapublication. Please contact Special Collections and University Archives (email@example.com or 540-231-6308) if you need assistance with forms or to submit a completed form.
Biographical Note - James Dean
Born in Fall River, Massachusetts, James Dean attended the Swain School of Design in New Bedford, Massachusetts, before eventually playing a key role in the creation of the NASA art program. He became the NASA director of films, publications and television, then founding director of the Fine Arts Program at NASA from 1961-1974, after which serving as the Curator of Art at the National Air and Space Museum. James Dean currently resides in northern Virginia.
Biographical Note - Michael Collins
Pilot, astronaut, U.S. assistant secretary of state, National Air and Space Museum director, and author, Michael Collins was born in Rome, Italy, on October 31, 1930. He graduated from Saint Albans School in Washington, D.C., before attending the U.S. Military Academy (West Point), where he obtained a bachelor of science degree in 1952.
Collins received an Air Force commission and, after pilot training, was assigned to Nellis Air Base for advanced training on the F-86 Sabrejet. Upon completion of training, he was assigned to the 21st Fighter- Bomber Wing, stationed in Victorville, California and, later, France. In 1961, Collins completed test pilot school and was assigned to Edwards Air Force Base, where he tested experimental fighter jets. (In the meantime, he had married Patricia Finnegan; the couple would have three children: Kathleen, Ann and Michael.)
Interested in NASA's manned space program, Collins enrolled in the newly established Aerospace Pilot School in 1963. In October of that year, he was among the third group of astronauts selected by NASA. Collins served as a member of the backup crew for the Gemini 7 mission and as pilot of NASA's Gemini 10 mission (launched July 18, 1966) with commander John Young. Among the mission's noteworthy accomplishments were the establishment of a new orbital altitude record, a rendezvous with an Agena target vehicle, and two spacewalks conducted by Collins.
Due to the rotational basis on which astronauts were assigned to Apollo missions, Collins was originally scheduled to be a member of the Apollo 8 flight crew. His need for back surgery, however, forced his re- assignment to a later mission. The postponement placed Collins on the crew of Apollo 11 (launched July 16, 1969), the first manned mission to land on the lunar surface. As the mission's command module pilot, Collins orbited the moon while commander Neil Armstrong and lunar module pilot Edwin E. "Buzz" Aldrin descended to its surface.
In January 1970, Collins resigned from NASA and served as assistant secretary of state for public affairs before becoming the first director of the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum in April 1971; he was promoted to undersecretary of the Smithsonian in April 1978. During this time, Collins began writing about his experiences in the space program, leading to his book Carrying the Fire(and a subsequent children's adaptation, Flying to the Moon and Other Strange Places). His expertise and talents led to numerous requests for speaking engagements, articles and book reviews. In 1988, he published Liftoff!,a book on the history and future of space exploration; his Mission to Marswas published in 1990.
Collins served on the boards of numerous organizations and corporations throughout the 1970s and 1980s. He became vice-president of field operations for the Vought Corporation in 1980, then resigned to head his own consulting firm, Michael Collins Associates, in 1985. He retired from the Air Force Reserve with the rank of major general in 1982.
Collins' awards include the Presidential Medal of Freedom; the Collier, Harmon and Goddard trophies; the Air Force Distinguished Service Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster; the Distinguished Flying Cross and many others. He has received awards from eleven other countries and honorary degrees from six colleges and universities.
Michael Collins died on April 28, 2021.
4.4 Cubic Feet (9 boxes and 1 oversize folder)
The collection consists of reference material NASA artist James Dean used in producing the artwork for astronaut Michael Collins' book Liftoff: The Story of America's Adventure in Space and Dean's book Journey into Space.
This collection is arranged according to subject matter into the following series:
Series I: Project Mercury, 1961-1986 Series II: Project Gemini, 1963-1985 Series III: Project Apollo, 1964-1985, n. d. Series IV: Skylab, 1969-1985, n. d. Series V: Space Station, 1970-1987, n. d. Series VI: Planets and the Sun, 1972-1986 Series VII: Liftoff Chapters - James Dean Copy, 1987, n.d. Series VIII: Miscellaneous, 1963-1988
Source of Acquisition
The James Dean Collection was donated to the Special Collections in 2003 and 2007.
A number of publications have been separated from the collection and added to the Rare Book Collection. A list of items are available from Virginia Tech Special Collections and University Archives.
Rights Statement for Archival Description
The guide to the James Dean Collection by Special Collections and University Archives, Virginia Tech, is licensed under a CC0 (https://creativecommons.org/share-your-work/public-domain/cc0/).
The processing, arrangement, and description of the James Dean Collection commenced and completed prior to 2004. Additional materials were integrated and the description updated in June 2023.
The collection was originally titled Michael Collins Collection: James Dean Resource Material, but during accessioning and processing, the collection was renamed James Dean Collection, to better reflect the contents of the collection.
Part of the processing, arrangement, and description of this collection was created as part of the project, "Piercing the Veil: Creating Access to the Archives of American Aerospace Exploration at Virginia Tech," funded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) from 2022 to 2024.
- James Dean Collection, 1961-1988
- Clayton McGahee, Staff; Tyler Williams, Student Assistant; and LM Rozema, Archivist
- 2023 (CC0 1.0)
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Part of the processing, arrangement, and description of this collection was created as part of the project, "Piercing the Veil: Creating Access to the Archives of American Aerospace Exploration at Virginia Tech," funded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) from 2022 to 2024.
Part of the Special Collections and University Archives, Virginia Tech Repository
Special Collections and University Archives, University Libraries (0434)
560 Drillfield Drive
Newman Library, Virginia Tech
Blacksburg Virginia 24061 US