Tim Cosgrove – Large Objects Conservation Care

What I do
I volunteer once a week with the ‘Large Objects’ team in the London Museum, usually for 5 to 6 hours on a Wednesday; the museum is very flexible and I can vary days and times to suit my own diary. Essentially my fellow volunteers and I look after the aircraft in the Museum as well as other large items such as vehicles, bombs, missiles and engines. ‘Look after’ means keeping them clean inside and out, and reporting any defects we find so they can be repaired. These are old machines so preventing dust and moisture build-up is critical to preserving them. Occasionally we help move aircraft as displays change, or carry out one of the many inspections the Museum is required to do to keep the collection and its visitors safe.

What I love
Getting up close and personal with a valuable, historical artefact is interesting, particularly an iconic aircraft such as the Spitfire, Lancaster or Vulcan bomber. Most people only ever see the smooth and shiny outside so it’s been an eye-opener to see just how rudimentary some of these flying machines really are beneath the skin. And it’s challenging too; I’m always amazed at how little space there is for the crew – which means it’s even tighter for volunteers!

What I get
I’ve always been interested in aircraft so spending time with these historical machines in the collection is reward enough. But what I get a big kick from is engaging with visitors from all walks of life who have a genuine interest in the aircraft. Many have a story about a family member and a particular type of aircraft; others are just keen to learn more about one exhibit, or share some fact about another. I can’t think of a day when I haven’t learned something new and usually from the most unexpected source. It keeps me on my toes.