Pavlos Kakoulli- Digitisation volunteer

What I do
I preserve documents in the RAF Museum’s archive in digital format, either through digital photography or desk top scanning.

The work is mainly project based, which has included significant contribution to the Historic Hendon project. This involved digitising anything and everything connected with Hendon Aerodrome from the Grahame-White era (pre-World War One) to its closure as an RAF station in 1987– be it a photo album of an RAF Sports Day or of aircraft prototypes, pilots’ log books, letters, passes or event programmes for the Hendon Pageants. Each item, and page, requires first to be set up meticulously for photography.

I also volunteer with the Large Objects Conservation team, helping to keep the aircraft clean and cared for.

What I love
I am a keen photographer and like many people with a DSLR kit I’m largely self-taught. Photography is something that you’re always learning about and striving to improve. Here, we’re in a darkened studio doing stills photography, which is an area of photography new to me that requires learning new skills, given how precise and accurate the final image needs to be. It’s a privilege to learn from Iain (Content Producer) about camera work, set-up, focussing, lighting and filters and how to handle and prepare some very delicate items to be photographed. From this I feel I’ve got to another level in my hobby, even put into practise what I’ve learned from Iain to create some artwork for our walls at home! If anything, I think I’m even more enthusiastic about my hobby! See below for a selection of photos taken at the RAF Museum in Cosford.

What I get
Volunteering at the Museum means quite a bit to me. I was fortunate to be able to retire in my 50s, and step off the treadmill of slog, commuting and routine whilst remaining enthusiastic to contribute or test myself in directions different to what I’ve grown up with! And to have new focal points, meet new people and make new friends. Being involved here has surpassed my expectations. Even from my modest contribution to the work here, there’s a sense of privilege being at RAFM and a sense of inclusivity and being very much valued by the staff, which I should add is also shared by the rest of our small team of digitisation volunteers. Simply, we all look forward to being here. Just as important, it’s been an opportunity for me to learn, from the technical side of photography to the thought-provoking history and stories of both the RAF and the beginning of aviation.

My career of over forty years was in the Civil Service. For thirty of those years I managed and negotiated the UK’s international Bilateral Air Services Treaties and worldwide relations, at the Department for Transport. I was privileged to have travelled around the world and to have been to some very interesting places (some that descended into conflict soon after I’d been there!) and to have met some fascinating people from Ministers and Ambassadors to people at the highest echelons of the civil aviation industry. The Treaties formed the framework for civil air services to operate and many of them date from the outset of commercial aviation and in one case the 1930s (signed by Mussolini no less!). So, for me there was a crossover of history and aviation. Like many people who work(ed) in aviation, it stays in the blood and I get that fix at RAFM!