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Museum Opens Up Royal Air Force's Archives

Published on: 05 August 2014

An image from rafmuseumstoryvault.org.ukThe Royal Air Force Museum, has today launched a new website, rafmuseumstoryvault.org.uk, which enables members of the public to interrogate the Casualty Cards of members of the Royal Flying Corps who suffered injury during the First World War. In addition to these records online visitors are now also able to search the Muster Roll for the RAF as drafted on 1 April 1918 and the Air Force List as of 1 February of the same year. 

This online resource is the culmination of a three-year digitisation project involving over 10,000 hours of work by staff of the museum who electronically preserved over 300,000 fragile records – all of which are free to examine for anyone with access to the internet.

Karen Whitting, Director of Public Programmes for the Museum stated:

‘As part of the museum’s on-going mission to open up our archives to the public, we felt it was of paramount importance that, as the world unites to commemorate the outbreak of the First World War, our online visitors were able to read these fragile documents which previously would have only been accessible through supervised visits with our curators. Each of the records contained within this digital archive reveals the story of a member of the Royal Flying Corps who suffered injury, often making the ultimate sacrifice to protect their families and their country at a time of major global conflict – heroes such as Albert Ball and Mick Mannock whose names are central to the story of the First World War in the air. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the Heritage Lottery Fund for their grant of £19,000, which enabled the museum to build this site.’

Albert Ball's casualty card, reporting his death.


Adam Shepherd, Head of Collections Management at the Museum said:

'I would l like to thank all the members of the Museum’s Collections Management team who worked so tirelessly on digitising and indexing these important RAF personnel records. Their dedication and sheer hard work on this intricate and intensive project has helped make it such a success. I would also like to thank the project’s main sponsor, the Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund, whose generous donation of £64,000 enabled the Museum to complete the rapid digitisation and indexing of so many records, as well as providing for the all-important public access. Without the Fund’s support we would not have been so successful in preserving, developing and opening up these important records, which will help future generations unlock the stories of RAF people.'

Leading the technical development of the site, was Dr Alan Whitfield, CEO of Congruis and Wididi UK:

‘The Congruis-Wididi partnership has worked closely with colleagues at the RAF Museum in one team of many talents, to create a digital environment in just a few weeks that can help everyone in the UK, and across the world, remember and reflect on the bravery and sacrifices of their ancestors and of the many thousands of members of the Royal Flying Corps. We hope that modern digital technology will help rebuild many lost, perhaps previously unknown, connections to those to whom we owe so much.’ 

Rafmuseumstoryvault.org.uk is part of a larger 4 year project undertaken by the RAF Museum dedicated to engaging audiences with the story of the First World War in the air. The main focus of this project will be a new permanent exhibition at both of the Museum’s Cosford & London sites, the ‘First World War in the Air’, opening December 2014. This exhibition will be supported by a dedicated programme of events at both sites, plus an outreach programme that will work with local communities and schools in London and the West Midlands thanks to the generous support of the Heritage Lottery Fund and BAE Systems.     


An architect's impression of what the First World War in the Air Exhibition will look like

The Royal Air Force Museum’s sites are open daily from 10 am to 6pm. Last admission is at 5:30 pm for its London site and 5pm for its Cosford site. On display across both sites are 175 aircraft, ranging from the early days of aviation, through the First and Second World Wars to today’s modern jets – complemented by both static and interactive displays, all of which give added depth to the human stories so important to the history of aviation and the Royal Air Force.



RAF Museum Story Vault is supported by Esmee Fairbairn Collections Fund, and the Heritage Lottery Fund.


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