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These airport terminal exhibits are a great way to wait for your flight

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If you’re flying anywhere this holiday season, it’s a good bet you’ll spend some extra “bonus dwell time” in an airport terminal. Or three.

Luckily, if you’re willing to stray a bit from your gate (don’t worry, it will still be there when your flight starts boarding), you can enjoy a free, museum-quality art and cultural exhibit at just about any major U.S. airport.

Forever: The Legacy of Virgin America at SFO

Virgin America plane mode
Virgin America plane model. SFO MUSEUM

The SFO Museum at San Francisco International Airport (SFO) recently opened a new exhibition all about the much-loved and sorely missed Virgin America carrier, which once had its home base at SFO. Titled “VX Forever: The Legacy of Virgin America,” the exhibition includes flight and ground crew uniforms, inflight service items, photographs and ephemera.

The exhibition dedicated to Virgin America is at the Aviation Museum and Library in the International Terminal through Nov. 17, 2024.

Public art project at ORD

Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport (ORD) is putting the finishing touches on $3.5 million worth of newly commissioned public art installed throughout Terminal 5, which includes the work of more than 20 Chicago-area artists.

Private Collections: Personal Obsessions at PHL

Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) is hosting the newest incarnation of a wonderful and whimsical exhibition filled with a wide assortment of private collections borrowed from Greater Philadelphia area residents and airport employees.

“Private Collections: Personal Obsessions” is on view between terminals C and D through May 2024. It is the airport’s fourth exhibit since 2022 comprised of local collections.

The exhibition includes 26 loaned collections — the most so far — and includes vintage handbags, wishbones, sewing thimbles, ice cream scoops, bottle caps and sports memorabilia.

“The exhibition has also proven to be the most so far, with so many wonderful objects to look at,” Leah Douglas, director of guest experiences at PHL, said.

Sports fan and area resident Matthew Keister loaned his collection of Philadelphia Eagles sports caps.

“I collect vintage hats of Philadelphia sports teams and the Wilmington Blue Rocks baseball team, but the Philadelphia Eagles are my main passion for collecting,” Keister said.

Matthew Keister collection of Philadelphia Eagles hats
Matthew Keister collection of Philadelphia Eagles hats. PHILADELPHIA INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT

He has several hundred Eagles hats from the 1980s, the 1990s and the 2000s. However, his favorite hat in the collection is a first-generation Shark Tooth cap made by Logo Athletic that was “super popular among those who grew up in the ’90s.”

Dave Rosenblum, a photographer and videographer who works at Philadelphia International Airport, has a few collections of his own. He loaned pieces from his late father’s prized collection of objects and ephemera related to John F. Kennedy and the Kennedy family for the PHL “Private Collections: Personal Obsessions” exhibition.

“Before my father passed, the collection had entirely engulfed the basement of our family home, from floor to ceiling,” Rosenblum shared. “He kept it all very neat and organized, but every inch of the room was covered.”

David Rosenblum with Kennedy Family Memorabilia
David Rosenblum with Kennedy family memorabilia. SAN FRANCISCO AIRPORT

Of the thousands of items in the collection, Rosenblum says he’s partial to the memorabilia in the collection related to Robert Kennedy. “My father loved items from before JFK’s presidency and any Kennedy pieces that related that to our hometown of Philadelphia,” he said.

Funko Pop! Figurines fascinate Heather Redfern, a pop-culture fanatic who follows TV, movies, music and sports. Redfern also happens to be the public affairs manager for PHL.

As with many collections, hers started with a gift.

“For Christmas about 10 years ago, my brother gave me the Beatles Yellow Submarine set and the Golden Girls,” Redfern said. “Since then, I’ve amassed a collection of about 70 figurines, received as gifts or purchased myself.”

The figures in Redfern’s collection include musicians (The Beatles, Elton John, Oasis); movie and TV characters such as Ted Lasso and Chandler Bing; cartoons and iconic individuals, like Queen Elizabeth and a corgi, Ben Franklin and Mister Rogers.

“I love all of the pieces in my collection,” Redfern said. “But my favorite is one that I know no one else has: a ‘Heather’ Pop! that I designed to look like me, complete with two cats, like I have, and holding a baseball (my favorite sport).”