Tribune Print Share Text

One of the Smithsonian’s greatest treasures

Volunteer Mike Krueger shares his love of history with guests from around the world

Created date

April 17th, 2018
Space Shuttle Enterprise in Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Va.

Space Shuttle Enterprise in Udvar-Hazy Center, Chantilly, Va.

In recognition of National Volunteer Month this past April, volunteers throughout the U.S. were honored for their hard work and dedication to those they serve. According to the Corporation for National Community Service, 25.3%, or 62.8 million Americans, volunteer, averaging 32.1 volunteer hours per person per year. That remarkable commitment accounts for 7.9 billion hours of service, the equivalent of $184 billion.

For the last 15 years, Mike Krueger, who lives at Ashby Ponds, an Erickson Living community in Ashburn, Va., has volunteered at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly. The Smithsonian museum is the companion to the Air and Space Museum on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

“I really enjoy the place,” says Mike. “In 2003, shortly before the museum opened, there was a call for volunteers. Having recently retired from 30 years at IBM, I thought this would be a good opportunity to give back.”

Wealth of information

Opting to serve as a member of the Blue Crew (named for the bright blue vests they wear), Mike and his fellow volunteers greet and engage museum guests; answer questions; and provide information on exhibits, programs, and amenities.

“What I like about the Blue Crew is that we spend time on the museum floor with guests,” says Mike. “This interaction represents a change from the traditional volunteer role within the Smithsonian institutions. Where in the past the primary goal of the museums has been to protect the artifacts, the Blue Crew volunteers ensure that visitors receive a value-add to their visit.”

According to the facility’s website, “Blue Crew members work throughout the museum buildings, pointing out interactive and age-specific activities; directing visitors to simulators and IMAX® movies; and sharing their enthusiasm for the history of flight and flight-related science and technology.”

Currently volunteering every Thursday, Mike directs guests through the facility’s two huge hangars, the Boeing Aviation Hangar and the James S. McDonnell Space Hangar, displaying thousands of aviation and space artifacts, including a Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird, a Concorde, and the Space Shuttle Discovery.

“Over the last 15 years, I’ve watched the museum triple in size,” says Mike. “Each day there is a new influx of information.”

Sharing the knowledge

As he is one of more than 200 volunteers at the Udvar-Hazy Center, Mike’s work provides him the opportunity to interact with a variety of different people, including many students.

“As a member of the Blue Crew, I’ve gained a better appreciation for younger people,” he says. “I’m continually amazed at their quest for knowledge and desire to ask questions. They are very receptive to knowledge and data.”

In addition, Mike enjoys meeting people from all over the country.

“Interacting with people, both guests and staff members, is my favorite part of the work,” he says. “It’s amazing what you can learn by talking with people. I’ve discovered so many things, often having little to do with the museum, from Virginia wine making to travel. Getting out and blending with people you may have been isolated from during your career is a wonderful benefit.”

Looking forward

When not volunteering at the Udvar-Hazy Center, Mike serves on the Loudoun County Board of Equalization, a three-year term that expires in December 2019, and on the county’s fiscal impact committee.

“It is very important to me to be involved in my community,” he says. “I spent 30 years in the workforce, and my desire now is to give back 30 years of service.”

With half of that time invested at the facility, Mike looks forward to continuing his support.

“I believe it’s important to put efforts in place designed to preserve knowledge and keep it from disappearing,” he says. “There is a lot of neat stuff out there. The Udvar-Hazy Center is very successful at capturing this knowledge and sharing it with the world. I’m fully enjoying watching it grow and mature.”