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The Future of IWM Duxford

#1
As we know IWM Lambeth Road has recently had a makeover, which lead to some less than stellar reviews, especially on here. However, lessons may have been learned.

Duxford's future is laid out here, in a rather evil overlord named "The Master Plan"

From a quick skim read it seems that Duxford is heading in an intriguing direction. The plan is to split the site up into zones. Each zone contains all the exhibits of a particular time period. thus you'll see tanks and planes form one time period standing next to each other, and not as is currently the case shot gunned around the site in clumps. It does mean that the Land Warfare hall might get its displays split across the site however.

The Master Plan also seems to hint a lot more about tactile interactive displays and a much larger social media presence. The later can be shown by Bovy's recent stunning success courting social media influencers, and large games companies. That said I have heard mutterings from the stuff at Bovy that suggest the full scale leap into bed with Wargaming is reaping some negatives. On the flip side the Social media presence has turned the museum into one of the few that makes a profit, and you can see how successful their approach has been due to the evolution of Tankfest. Reading between the lines, a couple of years back they ran Tankfest as they normally do, and the attendance numbers were so massive there were concerns about health and safety due to the sheer volume of people, plus the client experience was worse due to over crowding.
If Duxford can get a better social media presence, and modify its site to the vision they have it sounds damn interesting. especially for us big boys, who lets be honest delighted in the part of the land warfare hall where we got to pick up Tommy gun.

What I see as a major challenge is the site layout, and arranging it in a sensible order to guide people through the era's of warfare. While remembering a lot of displays need to be be accessible to the runway as they're still flying, and without modifying the layout of the site as its likely to be protected. Finally you also have places like the American Air Museum, which you have their own place in the Duxford hierarchy (The AAM for example has quite a lot of connections to the US, and does a significant amount of fund raising over there), and need to remain in tact, yet there are a number of displays that are important to the time zones envisioned.
 
#2
Bollocks leave it as it is . Great place doesn't needing messing with . After all the buildings and layout of the airfield are part of the appeal .
 
#3
Bollocks leave it as it is . Great place doesn't needing messing with . After all the buildings and layout of the airfield are part of the appeal .
As I said they can't mess with it too much, as the airfield has to remain operational, and the buildings are likely listed.
 
#4
...........the RAFM has a overseer who seems to have a problem with dirty old aircraft messing up her nice new 'interactive experiences' and is doing her level best to get rid of them. She's a generalist and has no service background or aviation knowledge - so ideal for the job you'd think........Seems all museums are becoming nothing more than stepping-stones on some administrator/academic's career path.
 
#5
Went to Duxford a few years ago and enjoyed it.

Not off topic but a comparison, I went to Tankfest last Saturday. Enjoyed that too. Organisation a little odd (t seemed they had minimal allowance for recovery of breakdowns of MBT's in the arena. A centurion failed and held things up for twenty minutes while the crew scratched their heads and then left the tank in the arena. I would have thought they would have pulled up the ARV that was parked 50 yeards away to drag the thing off - maybe teh centurion was seized?).

Because of the computer wargaming sponsorship there was a huge influx of geeky gothic wargamers of all sexes and a few in between. They seemed out of place next to middle aged guys lusting after German wundrwaffe.

But, Bovington muesuem is really good - it seems to manage to cater for all age ranges and all levels of knowledge and if by bringing in the computer geeks to see the sheer size and weight of real tanks, those geeks start to become enthusiastic and support the museum then it's not a bad thing. Overhearing the conversations they seemed to know a lot more than the middle aged overweight wunderwaffe fans.

If Duxford goes down a similar route to preserve the heritage and brings in a new group of young enthusiasts who mature and retain their interest it can't be a mad thing.

Just so long as they don't dumb down and replace displays of engines and armaments with PC displays of cutlery and ration cards.
 
#6
...........the RAFM has a overseer who seems to have a problem with dirty old aircraft messing up her nice new 'interactive experiences' and is doing her level best to get rid of them. She's a generalist and has no service background or aviation knowledge - so ideal for the job you'd think........Seems all museums are becoming nothing more than stepping-stones on some administrator/academic's career path.

Not museum no more dahling… they are discovery or experience centres!
 
#8
i havent been there since i was a kid but if they're going to f*** it up i might need to accelerate plans to take my kids down to see it.
 
#9
Been to Duxford once and found bits okay, but overall dusty tired and not that good. Anything that gives it a facelift is good, but please don't become the national army museum (shudder)...
 
#10
Just so long as they don't dumb down and replace displays of engines and armaments with PC displays of cutlery and ration cards.
Well one of the things I got from the doc above Duxford will be all about large items, do tanks and planes. They recognise that is one of Duxfords strengths.
 
#11
Been to Duxford once and found bits okay, but overall dusty tired and not that good. Anything that gives it a facelift is good, but please don't become the national army museum (shudder)...

Go midweek out of the main season when its quiet and go round the sheds were the warbirds are being restored… fascinating, and … any chance of a look inside your B-17? Yeah, sure.
 
#12
For a really charming museum try the Shuttleworth collection, go off season and you can be all alone in the ancient hangers with sparrows tweeting in the rafters and a Sopwith Pup, Avro 504 or a Spitfire with their memories for company.

It is about as close to having a spiritual moment as I have ever got.
 
#13
With that sort of refurb then some self funding by the Museum and Trust will have to happen. So is this where the numerous artifacts tucked away in the basement and store areas are quietly sold off at auction, after all there are only so many medals and log books that can be displayed.
If so I will be watching out for my Grandfathers DFC to surface which was gifted to Hendon in the 80s!
 
#14
I have been a member of Friends of Duxford until it changed earlier this year, something I have done for the past 11 years. I have watched with horror as the RAF museum collection was literally broken up and redistributed across the country.

I have just renewed my subscription for Duxford as an IWM Member, something I would immediately give up if anything were to happen to the current layout of exhibits.

The fact you can walk through the workshops while aircraft are being maintained, or even rebuilt almost from nothing means so much. I have watched the reconstruction of a Beaufighter from the Tail spar to what it is today (albeit not complete) over 22 years. It has been a fascinating and educational experience. (My father was a Beaufighter pilot, moving to Lancasters just after WW2). You can talk to the engineers who are working on the aircraft who can give you information on the history of the aircraft.

On Shuttleworth, I absolutely agree, a top class museum, where often in the quieter months you can find yourself alone to slowly walk through the hangers which are full of aviation, and some motoring history.
 

Joshua Slocum

LE
Book Reviewer
#17
I think you need to have a balance
us older folk grew up with parents and uncles who fought in the war, and often took us along to the museums and explained things, also a great many of the ancillary items related to the vehicles and aircraft are familiar to us and we can understand their connection to the scheme in general

but to a new generation, its ancient history so you need to bring it alive and stimulate them. also not having relatives to guide them around they need reference points and links

I recently visited the new museum at Bastogne, it uses a mixture of technology with audio devices and pick up points, along with written description along side the displays, also they have terraced it over several levels each telling a story

TV screens come to life and bring back recordings of long dead people talking about the terrible times

and with the interactive cinemas it neatly flows without getting boring, but also allows you to take on more information if you want or can comprehend it
 
#18
One interesting difference is that as Bovington is not part of the IWM family, they have different rules. The chap running Bovington is a businessman, and the Tank Museum’s success (and willingness to work with Wargaming) is a result of it. I am well known to the staff there, and making arrangements for filming or running tanks etc is dead easy.

Last year I inquired as to filming in Duxford, and though the lass on the other end was quite friendly, the processes imposed upon her by The Powers That Were were not. Wargaming is a multi-billion dollar multinational and, for example, IWM wanted more in insurance coverage than we normally carry. In the end, I said to hell with it and instead our money went to the private aircraft restoration company next door on the same airfield. Doing a site reconnaissance two months before filming and then submitting the filming plan for approval is not something one can easily do from California. (In fairness, Dover Castle Tunnels had a similar annoying requirement, with the same result. We didn’t bother, and so no money or publicity)

If it’s something we really, really want to do, we can, and have, worked with IWM. I believe HMS Belfast is quite happy with us, for example, but the administrative difference between Bovington and IWM seems to me to be night and day. Just how much of a detriment Duxford suffers in reality from folks behind the regulations, I’m obviously not in a position to say, but as the OP observes, social media is a big thing in success, and I think they are hamstringing themselves.
 
#19
There are those within the 'learning experience' community that would like to see every tank and aeroplane melted down and turned into a symbolic Dove of Peace. They will be the death of museums eventually - just as everything else they've touched has gone to rat. I despise them.
 
#20
One interesting difference is that as Bovington is not part of the IWM family, they have different rules. The chap running Bovington is a businessman, and the Tank Museum’s success (and willingness to work with Wargaming) is a result of it. I am well known to the staff there, and making arrangements for filming or running tanks etc is dead easy.
That's certainly interesting to hear, and mirrors my experience as well, on behalf of one of the community contributors we tried to get in contact with both the DAS and the IWM, and got roundly ignored both times.

I've met Richard Smith once, I was in the archive doing some research and we had a hell of an afternoon just talking tanks. It was great.

There are those within the 'learning experience' community that would like to see every tank and aeroplane melted down and turned into a symbolic Dove of Peace. They will be the death of museums eventually - just as everything else they've touched has gone to rat. I despise them.
There's a series of photographs held by the IWM of their early years. It shows them hauling out some of their tank exhibits and scrapping them. You can see a Medium D, a Gun Carrier Mk.I, A7V and a FT-17 all getting gas axed for scrap. These were dated 1920-1924.
 

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