D. B. Cooper exhibit lands at Tacoma museum

The Washington State History Museum will take a step back in time next month to study one of America's greatest...

The Washington State History Museum will take a step back in time next month to study one of America’s greatest unsolved mysteries and its lasting effect on history: the infamous skyjacker D. B. Cooper.

The exhibit, which opens Sat., Aug. 24 and runs through Sun., Jan. 5, 2014, explores how his skyjacking of the plane bound for Sea-Tac changed the course of aviation design and passenger safety. The exhibit, which is sponsored in part by The Oregonian, will also incorporate never-before-seen artifacts, first-person accounts and FBI documents to help recreate the fateful November day in 1971 when passenger “Dan Cooper” boarded a plane at Portland International Airport and leapt into infamy. Visitors will also experience air travel in the 1970s via a recreated Boeing 727 cabin and cockpit, and study the science of skydiving, forensics and commercial aircraft design. Together with interactive simulations and storyboards, the exhibit will feature marked dollars from the ransom payment, an identification plate from the original plane, and a 1957 Pioneer Parachute Company parachute (one of four that were delivered as part of Cooper’s demands).

“The story of Cooper is a complex and fascinating one, with many political and cultural factors that played into the infamous skyjacking,” said Jennifer Kilmer, director of the Washington State Historical Society. “Through this exhibit and the accompanying programs, we hope to give people a 360-degree view of this single event and its enduring mystery and ramifications.

To unveil this landmark exhibit, the museum will be hosting a members’ gala and preview on Fri., Aug. 23. The event will feature an evening of 1970s-themed dancing, cocktails, and a sneak preview of the debut exhibit. For the grand opening celebration on Sat., Aug. 24, exhibit curators will lead behind-the-scene tours throughout the morning. At 11 a.m., Gary Young, a parachute expert and professional stuntman, will demonstrate what it’s like to jump out of a Boeing 727 at night – and survive. At 2 p.m., Citizen Sleuth investigator Tom Kaye will present on his notorious search for Cooper.

The museum will host an ongoing educational series on forensic science and history mysteries, interactive shows with a professional Cooper impersonator, and partner on the fall symposium featuring Geoffrey Gray, bestselling-author of Skyjack: The Hunt for D.B. Cooper, with dates to be released soon. Exhibit hours will be 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., with days varying by season and extended hours, and free admission every third Thursday between 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. General admission is $9.50 for adults; $7 for seniors and students; free for children, age 5 and below, and members are always free.

More information is available online at washingtonhistory.org.

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