Adam Love-Rodgers: Flight of fancy a trip into past and future

Schools have come to know the National Museum of Flight as a key resource. Picture: Toby Williams
Schools have come to know the National Museum of Flight as a key resource. Picture: Toby Williams
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NATIONAL Museum of Flight is an educational resource, says Adam Love-Rodgers

At the National Museum of Flight in East Fortune, work is nearing completion on a £3.6 million project to restore two nationally significant Second World War hangars and create exciting new displays worthy of our world-class aircraft collection. The hangars will dramatically present our military, civil and leisure aircraft and will re-open on 25 March, as the Easter holiday period begins. In order to engage with a wide range of visitors, we have developed a number of exciting new learning projects to support the redevelopment.

Imagine seeing the aircraft in our collection and also hearing from their designers, builders, pilots and engineers. Our new collecting digital stories project allows us to do just that, by collecting oral history interviews, film and still images from the people who really know these aircraft. One highlight was the recent visit to the museum by Captain Eric Brown RN who, as a test pilot, flew more different types of aircraft than anyone else in history. Visitors to the new hangars will have the opportunity to watch our interviews with Captain Brown next to some of the aircraft he flew.

The museum is based on a First and Second World War airfield, and schools have come to know it as a key resource for studying these conflicts. Our collections, ranging from hang gliders to Scotland’s only Concorde, are a great way to enthuse pupils about science and technology. Building on this, new sessions are being taken into schools to be tested in advance of the opening of the new displays.

The aviation industry in Britain has unfilled posts due to a shortage of graduates in science and technology. Working in partnership with a charity, Skylab, we are seeking to enthuse secondary pupils about flight before they make their subject choices. Volunteer engineers and airline pilots have been trained to work with young people in a one-day workshop experimenting with gliders and rubber band-powered aeroplanes.

We have recruited experienced, hands-on engineers to work with people aged 13-24 in a project to share their skills. The participants, many of whom are disengaged with studies at school, will build skills through stripping and rebuilding a De Havilland Gipsy Queen engine at the museum.

We are keen to engage with local communities to ensure that as wide a range of local people as possible enjoy this fantastic museum right on their doorsteps. This summer, we will be inviting them to team up with artists to create work which responds to our collections.

Young parents and carers from local communities will have the chance to join a storytelling circle at the museum in the autumn. Through projects like this, the museum will stay at the heart of communities and continue to play a role in local people’s everyday lives.

When the newly refurbished hangars reopen we will be offering young people the opportunity to come in and work alongside our visitor services staff to gain front of house experience. Attending at weekends and during school holidays, those taking part will have a chance to build their skills.

The National Museum of Flight has been a rich learning environment for more than 40 years. Through these innovative new projects it offer learning experiences for visitors old and new.

• Adam Love-Rodgers is learning officer at the National Museum of Flight