Restored fighter jets and bombers at the Military Aviation Preservation Society in North Canton sit back unseen from traffic on State Route 241.
Even the MAPS Air Museum itself, sitting at the west side of Akron-Canton Airport, exists largely invisible to people arriving at and departing from the region’s major transportation center.
But, that doesn’t mean that the historical treasures exhibited at MAPS are unknown to an increasingly larger pool of visitors. More and more people from Canton and Akron, residents from Stark and Summit and surrounding counties, day-trippers throughout the state and aviation enthusiasts from all over the country are finding their way to the aviation museum, according to Kim Kovesci, the facility’s director.
“We’re getting well known,” Kovesci said. “In 2009, we had 6,200 visitors. The next year, it went to 7,200. Then each year, it increased to 11,000, then 18,000, then 28,000. It held for a year at 28,000, then it went to 34,000, and last year, it was 37,000.
“We’re very happy with that growth. We’re not ready for 50,000. We’re growing this in a controlled environment.”
A larger number of group tours make up a significant percentage of that growth, noted Kovesci, who with other managers at MAPS, has undertaken a program encouraging schools to bring their high school students to the museum as part of their history curriculum. Sixteen high schools in Stark and Summit counties now bring more than 3,400 students to MAPS.
“It’s our history,” said Kovesci. “We tell the students stories about local people who were heroes, people who have made tremendous sacrifices. It would be difficult for teachers to cover the amount of interesting history that we do in one tour.”
Kovesci also noted that the museum tours provide an up-close look at that history, through images and artifacts.
“We let the kids see it and touch it and feel it,” Kovesci said. “And then we go back into our Gallery of Heroes and they learn about the people from the area and the significance of the part they played in our history.”
Almost four dozen restored airplanes are on display inside MAPS and on the grounds surrounding it. Dozens of other artifacts also are part of the exhibits. The displays soon will increase when the Ohio Military Museum, previously in downtown Massillon, officially takes residence in an upstairs exhibit room at MAPS.
“Ohio Military Museum includes 13 Medal of Honor recipients, and we’ll have displays for all of them,” Kovesci said.
MAPS Air Museum is open 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $10 for adults and $6 for children ages 6 to 12.
Special events—fundraisers and car shows for example—play a big part in the museum’s operation, said its director, who noted that MAPS is the site of frequent pancake breakfasts that help pay the bills at the facility.
“There are a lot of events that bring guests here to enjoy the atmosphere, not just see the museum,” said Kovesci. “We had 10 weddings and receptions here last year. Being around the planes is kind of neat.”