We currently have 8460 items listed in the inventory, in 3426 different locales. This abandoned donkey boiler is off the side of Hwy 130, West of Laramie, Wyoming. It is not in the database.
The Method to our Madness
We have started the database by adding major "items on loan" from the National Museum of the Air Force and the National Naval Aviation Museum. We have now branched out to the the other Armed Services and museums. If we had our way we would have the inventory of every museum in the world. Unfortunately I don't think our site provider can support that.
We pad our identification numbers with zeros in order list them in order. If the items is ex-military we also add the associated service(s), ie 63-12201: USAF or WD592: UKRAF.
A lot of aircraft started life in one service and were transferred to other services. For Example: the PBY-5 "046582: USN; 6520: FAB" started as a USN Catalina and was transferred to the Brazialian Air Force.
Certain oddities eventually show up, for instance: F-86F 57-6432:NAA; 02-7975: JASDF. The aircraft parts were made in the USA and had an administrative serial number assigned by North Averican Aviation (NAA.) The parts were then shipped to Japan and assembled by Mitsubishi. It was then given a serial number for the Japanese Self Defense Force. The aircraft was never part of the USAF. See our abbreviations page for more information on the abbreviations.
Designations are a constant problem.
United States aircraft: We try to keep the models generic and when drilled down to the item make it specific. For instance, the Grumman Wildcat is either a F4F or FM2 depending on where it was manufactured. In a model search you will only see "Wildcat" and the different versions will show up when selected. For those aircraft that have different names for different roles they will also come out in the model selection. For example the Recconaissance version will not be included with the Fighter version on the listing. That means that you will find five different versions of the F-84 (two under F-84, two under RF-84, and one under XF-84), as each had a different model name.
The US Army is no better, having started their model numbers at M1 for every different type of ordnance/equipment they held in inventory. They renumbered their items in 1962 but you can still find duplications like the M114, it is either a Howitzer or a Command and Recconaissance Carrier. The Army has started with M1 again with the M1A1 Abrams Main Battle Tank and we still have the obsolete M1A1 120mm Anti-Aircraft "Stratosphere Gun" on display in several locations.
One of the big problems in a database view for the Army is their Artillery. In 1962 they updated their model numbers but only added new dataplates on the units during overhaul. That means that a person can walk up to two similar guns and find two different model numbers. Newer artillery units have multiple serial numbers found on the item. We only track four associated serial numbers: gun (receiver/breach;) carriage; recoil mechanism; and tube (barrel.) Our US Army reference inventory uses any one of the these as the serial number. ** note: they depend on the end user to record the serial number of the item received. In many cases it is the easiest one found. ** US Army motorized equipment has at least two numbers, the serial/construction number and the registration number.
Online References We are not alone and stand on the shoulders of those that have come before!
We find these websites of great use and support their authors whole heartedly: http://www.iowacivilwarmonuments.com - we use their photos with their permission. http://www.tinfeathers.com - we use their photos with their permission. http://www.warmemorials.us - we use their photos with their permission. http://www.joebaugher.com/ THE source for US Aircraft history on the web.
http://the.shadock.free.fr/The_USA_Historical_AFV_Register_4.1.pdf - US motorized weapons displays
http:/www.utahrails.net - a goldmine of data on railroads associated with the state of Utah
http://www.steamlocomotive.com/ - surviving steam around the world http://http://www.nationalmuseum.af.mil/Portals/7/documents/other/aircraft_on_loan_by_location.pdf - National Museum of the Air Force on loan items dated April 2016 (NMUSAF website)
In house References:
US Navy loan items (FOIA): National Aviation Museum on loan items, dated 18 July 2017
US Army loan items (FOIA): TACOM inventory dated 25 June 2015
US Air Force loan items (other than aircraft) (FOIA): 09 Nov 2015 US Marinc Corps Museum loan items (FOIA): 28 Mar 2017