Museum Writer in Residence – the story so far
This year will be my first full year as the RAF Museums’ Children’s Writer in Residence.
My job is to help the museum to tell the RAF Story: to tell people today about what the Royal Air Force – and its predecessor, the Royal Flying Corps – has achieved over the last 100 years.
This year we’ll be doing that with a series of events aimed at schools and for the public visiting on weekends.
On 24th February we’ll be working at RAF Museum Cosford with 35 fourteen-year-olds from a local school. As with most school visits to the museums, the children will be able to look at the planes and at some of the artefacts related to the pilots. Helmets. Gloves. Uniforms. But more personal things too, such as an RAF bible inscribed by a daughter to her father who was a pilot.
I will be there to talk about stories. In the shadow of the planes and with the artefacts in our hands, I hope to tell the story of some of the people who worked on and in the planes.
A colossal plane in a hangar can strike fourteen-year-olds with awe. But so can the story about a man only four years older than them, who had to fly a plane into the dangerous skies over Europe with a one-in-twenty chance of being shot down and killed.
Can we come anywhere close to imagining what that must have been like?
That’s the challenge.
There will be public events too. On 16th April I’ll be at RAF Museum London talking to families about the Sikh pilot, Hardit Singh Malik, who flew Sopwith Camels in the First World War. That will be at the launch of my new book – which features Malik – FlyBoy.
On 10th June we’ll be going out to schools near the Cosford Museum, talking about the Spitfire and the men – and women – who flew it. Then inviting the kids and their families to come to a launch for my book Spitfire, the following day.
Two years ago I doubted whether I could write about history, especially history that involves the astonishing sacrifices made during war and the high levels of technology involved in 100 years of RAF history.
But working with the RAF Museum’s staff and using their resources has helped me to understand that the stories of the RAF are not solely about major historical moments and breath-taking inventions: they are stories about ordinary people who have lived extraordinary lives.
And my job is to try to tell those stories to children today.
Tom Palmer will blog regularly about his RAF Museum residency. You can find out more about his RASF books here.