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Wednesday—Working in the Aerospace Industry

How did the growing diversity of Southern California influence management and workforce experiences in the aerospace industry?

Wednesday focuses on the personal experiences of a range of individuals and groups who worked in the aerospace industry.

After breakfast on Wednesday, the day will begin with Keirn leading a discussion of three readings. The first is a selection from David Beers’ Blue Sky Dream: A Memoir of America’s Fall from Grace, which recounts the author’s upbringing in Southern California in the early 1960s as the son of an aerospace engineer. The book provides insight into the politics of aerospace corporations’ contracts with the federal government, as well as offering a poignant first-person narrative of one family’s experience with the region’s aerospace industry. Two other readings offer contrasting views of minority working-class experiences. Becky Nicolaides considers World War II and early Cold War blue-collar work in an LA suburb in “The Suburban Good Life Arrives,” while Josh Sides, “The Window of Opportunity: Black Work in Los Angeles, 1941-1964” particularly explores opportunities and limitations for African American workers. These readings will help set the stage for the day’s focus on the personal experiences of those who worked in the aerospace industry during the Cold War.

Participants will then travel to the Wende Museum, a collections-based research and education institute that preserves Cold War artifacts from Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. Participants will explore a variety of Cold War artifacts from the US’s superpower rival, including objects and images celebrating Soviet aerospace achievements. This visit anticipates Thursday’s focus on Cold War culture by exploring the ways the US’s superpower rival celebrated aerospace in popular culture.

Then participants will travel to the Air and Space Exhibit at the California Science Center at Exposition Park in downtown Los Angeles. Westwick will provide a lecture-discussion on “Working in the Aerospace Industry: Executives, Engineers, and Factory Workers” based on his extensive work with the archival materials of the USC-Huntington’s Aerospace History Project. Westwick will explore the diverse experiences and perspectives of those in the industry, from executive, to engineers, to line workers.

After lunch, Dr. Kenneth Phillips will provide a guided tour of Air & Space Exhibits, California Science Center. The Center, operated in partnership with the state of California, is the West Coast’s largest hands-on science center. The Sketch Foundation Gallery Air and Space Exhibits provides authentic and reproduction airplanes, jets, unmanned and manned space vehicles and associated equipment that played key roles in the development of aerospace technology. The museum became home to the space shuttle orbiter Endeavour late last year. All of Museum’s hands-on artifacts will allow participants to appreciate the products of aerospace research up close through the guided tour.

After returning to Long Beach, participants will join in a short meeting debriefing the day’s activities. After dinner, participants complete daily evaluation online through MERLOT and then spend time on their own working on their lesson plans.

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