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Lunchtime Lecture (London): Britain’s Aircraft Heritage: How Government Policy has Influenced its Preservation

23 July 2024

On Tuesday 23rd July 2024 at 12pm, Dr Peter Elliott will explore how government policy has impacted on Britain’s aircraft heritage. This talk will be hosted in-person at the RAF Museum’s London site and virtually via Crowdcast.

Talk Outline

The United Kingdom has played a major part in the development of aviation, but the preservation of historic aircraft and other artefacts has been the subject of a rather laissez-faire attitude. The Science Museum views aviation as one of many technologies and for many years lacked the resources to collect and display aircraft of any size. During the 1920s and 1930s the Imperial War Museum was the main institution recording the military use of aircraft, but its remit was perceived as covering only the First World War and its displays concentrated on the land and sea campaigns. This led to calls from the Royal Air Force for a more wide-ranging museum.

This lecture will describe the influence of government departments, national museums, and the Royal Air Force on aircraft preservation, from the first exhibition (held in 1912), via the RAF’s calls for an Air Services Museum in the 1930s, the wartime selection of aircraft to be preserved, proposals for a National Air Museum in the 1950s, and the creation and subsequent expansion of the RAF Museum. The Treasury was very opposed to the formation of a new museum, but the RAF’s lack of a formal policy enabled RAF stations to display redundant aircraft, and that fleet grew until reviews in 1972 and 1987 brought curbs. The lecture will also explain how the availability of redundant military aircraft for volunteer-run museums was limited by the Treasury’s rules, before a recent change in Ministry of Defence policy made it easier for such museums to acquire aircraft.

 

Location
This hybrid lecture will be hosted in-person at the RAF Museum’s London site in the Lecture Theatre. Attendance in-person is free but registration is required via Digitickets.
Livestream
To attend virtually, register via Crowdcast.

About Dr Peter Elliott

Peter Elliott spent most of his career with the RAF Museum, retiring in 2016 as Head of Archives; he became the museum’s first Curator Emeritus. He has recently completed his PhD on the development of aviation museums, and has published papers and a podcast on the history of the RAF Museum. He has represented the museum on the committees of the Royal Aeronautical Society’s Aviation Heritage Specialist Group and the RAF Historical Society, and is currently Honorary Archivist to the Honourable Company of Air Pilots.


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