London’s Grand Re-Opening
After a 6 year-long multi-million pound Centenary Transformation Project, the RAF Museum London finally re-opened its new exciting site to the public on Saturday, 30 June, the Armed Forces Day.
The transformation was challenging and thrilling at the same time. We knew that we needed to grow and progress to stay relevant and compelling for our audiences who had become younger and more diverse.
The First Phase of the transformation was delivered in 2014 with the opening of the award-winning First World War in the Air exhibition in Hangar 2. The exhibition explores the pioneering years of British aviation and the very birth of the Royal Air Force.
The RAF Centenary Project’s Second and the Third Phases were delivered at the same time on 30 June 2018. These Phases constituted the building of three new exciting exhibitions and the complete redevelopment of the Museum site, incorporating a newly grassed ‘airfield’ in its centre.
On 30 June, we hosted an exciting event celebrating Armed Forces Day UK as well as the final unveiling of our new exhibitions. Our first visitors were treated with a rip-roaring concert of much-loved songs from The Jive Aces, North London Military Wives Choir, Polka Dot Dolls and RAF Halton‘s Band.
The stage was positioned on our grassed ‘airfield’ at the centre of our site which resembles the shape of Hendon airfield. This area has been specifically designed for picnicking and sunbathing both made all the more comfortable by resting on our beautiful parachute bean-bags, created in collaboration with local community. We were delighted to see our visitors relaxing on them and enjoying the sunshine and a vibrant music.
Our first new exhibition ‘RAF Stories: The First 100 Years: 1918 – 2018’ in Hangar 1 was designed to make a full and detailed introduction of the RAF to those of our visitors who may not be very knowledgeable as to what the RAF is and what it does.
This exhibition features an array of amazing personal stories from RAF servicemen and women in the form of the silhouettes, a collection of unique objects, which have never been on the display before, video and the RAF’s iconic aircraft. Each aircraft on display in this area has a mini-version next to it which are proving to be extremely popular among our younger visitors.
This exhibition also offers the unique opportunity for the visitors to explore and interact with many of the amazing objects in our collection. Guests highly appreciated the opportunity to try on the RAF uniform, to listen to the personal experiences of RAF personnel through our interactives and to test our Flying Training and Multitasking Simulators.
We have also noticed that the visitors have devoted a lot of time to planning aerial battles during the Battle of Britain on our WAAF plotting table, exploring how jet engines work as part of our Sir Frank Whittle display and generally having a lot of fun.
For the re-opening event, we arranged a photo booth in Hangar 1, where our visitors could pose for the pictures in vintage RAF uniform going back to 100 years ago.
Our second new exhibition, ‘RAF: First to the Future’, also in Hangar 1, was designed to tell the story of how the constant development of cutting-edge technology has been paramount to the success of the RAF . We knew that this area would be extremely appealing for the teenagers and young adults, as it offers the opportunity to try out being intelligent agent gathering information or a RAF engineer designing the aircraft of the future.
We were delighted to discover how long our young visitors would stay in the new exhibition designing their own aircraft and testing them, undertaking tasks based on real-life missions, exploring topics of interest at our Debate Table.
Our third new exhibition ‘The RAF in the Age of Uncertainty: 1980 – Today’ in Hangar 6 has a dramatic display and explores the recent history of the RAF from 1980.
Alongside the terrific aircraft and unique objects related to the RAF operations in Iraq or Afghanistan, the exhibition also includes the interactive opportunities. The ‘Age of Uncertainty’ is represented as a timeline connecting the RAF operations to the other major world events during this period – assisting our audience in linking events to the history of the RAF.
Visitors also paid a lot of attention to the large screen collecting the opinions on the question, has the world become a safer place over the last 40 years!
Our Armed Forces Day Festival went amazingly well and re-enforced the fact that 6 years of hard work and toil have created an exciting and magnificent space where visitors of all ages and backgrounds now have an endless opportunity to explore, interact and have fun.
Since our re-opening we have received a tremendous amount of feedback from visitors stating how amazed and delighted they are with our new site and that it now provides families with an even more incredible opportunity to have an unforgettable day out.
So why not come for a flying visit and end up staying the day? We look forward to welcoming you in the near future…and don’t forget admission to our London site is free of charge.