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Click here to find out more about the Prologue Room and how to schedule a tour.

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Prologue to history

The Prologue Room at Boeing Defense, Space & Security (BDS) headquarters in St. Louis is like a walk through the past century. It’s packed with aviation artifacts that teach visitors about Boeing’s history and the evolution of flight.

“I think the most powerful tool in conveying our rich history is this Prologue Room,” said Mary Barr, the museum’s curator.

“Visitors can get up close and personal with aviation history that changed our lives, from a scale model of the very first Boeing seaplane, the B&W Bluebill, built in 1916 by company founder William E. Boeing, to 1960s-era Project Mercury and Gemini space capsules to realistic models of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner,” said Henry Brownlee, Historical Services manager for BDS.

The Prologue Room gets its name from the play “The Tempest,” in which William Shakespeare wrote, “Whereof what's past is prologue, what to come,” meaning the past affects the future. For visitors, the past comes to life in hundreds of scale-model airplanes and flight souvenirs.

"It’s incredible not only to show them the products but to show them the history of it, to see how far we’ve come even in the last 20 to 30 years."

The 3,500-square-foot museum, which is open to the public in the summer, is often used to show customers and guests the aviation achievements and contributions of Boeing and its heritage companies Douglas Aircraft, McDonnell Douglas and North American.

Cory Boss, an external auditor working for Boeing and touring the collection with his wife and two sons, picked up his 2-year-old to peer inside a case displaying the new V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft. He said the display put a spark in the child’s eyes.

“It’s incredible not only to show them the products but to show them the history of it, to see how far we’ve come even in the last 20 to 30 years,” Boss said.

The room is split into three sections: Military, Space, and Commercial. State-of-the-art kiosks with interactive TV monitors with touch screens guide visitors through history.

“When I was in grade school, everybody was watching TV when Neil Armstrong stepped onto the moon the first time, so this is part of the era I grew up in,” said Donald Slovensky, a Boeing information technology worker.

Slovensky brought his 4-year-old son David for a tour, and the boy was drawn to the scale models of today’s modern fighter jets like the F/A-18 Super Hornet and the F-15E Strike Eagle, as well as a cockpit cutaway of a modern commercial jetliner built by Boeing Commercial Airplanes.

“All this is a bit overwhelming,” said one visitor who quietly made his way through the museum, pausing to look inside a 49-year-old space capsule that once held an American hero: his brother.

Lowell Grissom, brother of Virgil “Gus” Grissom, one of the Mercury Seven astronauts who died in the Apollo 1 launch pad fire on Jan. 27, 1967, said his older brother spent a lot of time inside the two capsules now on display, engineering the thrust and guidance systems that would eventually take Americans to the moon.

“Some of the engineers who Gus worked with here said he was a real taskmaster,” said Grissom. “But there were so many unknowns in those days, they just had to get it right, and they did with these capsules.”

The spacecraft, which never flew, still power thousands of imaginations. More than half a million people have toured the Prologue Room since it opened in 1975.

“Even though he lost his life on the Apollo 1 program, he always said that the conquest of space is worth the risk of life, and he really believed that,” Grissom said.