On Cleveland’s north coast, where downtown meets the waters of Lake Erie, lies a strip of land considered by many Clevelanders to be a huge waste of prime real estate. The Burke Lakefront Airport—a tiny, public airport used by very few of Cleveland’s general public—occupies the space. Unknown to many, Burke is actually the fourth-busiest airport in the state of Ohio, although it’s most frequent users are celebrities and sports teams traveling to and from Cleveland. But even more obscure than the airport itself is the museum that is nested within.
The International Women Air & Space Museum is located inside Burke’s terminal, tucked away from the popular Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Cleveland Science Center seconds down the road. It’s hard to classify the space as a typical museum, as one could find themselves in the midst of it without even knowing it. The space is designed to blend seamlessly into the airport. Sporadically placed glass cases enclose memorabilia like the helmet worn by Ruby Wine Sheldon and the vintage uniform of the first airline stewardesses. Documents, photographs, and model planes can be found every couple of feet.
Dotting the terminal are miniature replicas of the old planes many of these women would have flown. Quotes of famous aviators and astronauts are painted on the walls. Interested in trying on some astronaut gloves? You can do that too.
While not nearly as extensive as some museum collections, the International Women Air & Space Museum is wonderful in its own right. It showcases the achievements of America’s women, some of them the most daring of their time. The contribution of these women was tremendous, and this tiny museum in Ohio, the “Birthplace of Aviation” stands as a testament to their work.
Know Before You Go
The museum is located in the airport's main hangar. Simply enter through any door any make your way towards the miniature planes and mannequins. The museum is free to the public and is open seven days a week.