Brooklands Museum Shortlisted for Museums + Heritage Award

Brooklands Museum

Brooklands Museum in Surrey, operated by an independent charitable trust, joins some of the world’s best known institutions after it was announced yesterday they have been shortlisted for their ambitious Aircraft Factory and Flight Shed project for an annual award. The Museums + Heritage Awards are held as an extension to the annual Museums + Heritage Show which this year is on 16th & 17th May at Olympia in London. It recognises projects of excellence, innovation and ground-breaking initiatives from galleries and visitor attractions across the UK and overseas.

These range from remarkable achievements of national institutions to projects crafted with limited resources and those championing their staff and volunteers who work hard to deliver inspiring visitor experiences. The Permanent Exhibition category, for which Brooklands has qualified, also includes National Army Museum, Ashmolean Museum, London’s Natural History Museum and part of the Science Museum Group, ‘Wonderlab’ amongst its shortlistees. Other categories include Volunteer of the Year, Educational Initiative, Marketing Campaign and Project on a Limited Budget.

The six-year project at Brooklands required extensive planning and fundraising which involved dismantling and restoring a Grade 2 Listed WWII Bellman Hangar, relocating it and reinterpreting it inside as an aircraft factory, restoring and re-profiling the section of original 1907 Race Track where the Hangar once stood and constructing a new purpose-built Flight Shed with archives and storage. The Aircraft Factory opened to the public in November 2017.

The experience is immersive: as soon as visitors enter through the doors of the Factory, they hear the sounds and drink in the authentic atmosphere of a busy factory. They pick up a “clocking in” card, don an overall and try for themselves the skills involved in aircraft manufacture on interactives at several workstations. In the Tinsmiths Shop, for example, they can roll, bend and rivet blanks of metal to make a small aeroplane to take home or see how wing shapes respond in a wind tunnel. Aircraft and their major components are displayed on “assembly lines” running through the factory.

Looking out over the factory floor is a new mezzanine level that tells the story of aircraft design at Brooklands, where visitors explore the challenges and compromises of designing new and future aircraft. From the mezzanine, a walkway leads into the Flight Shed, which houses some of the Museum’s live aircraft as well as radar and radio equipment and a permanent exhibition on pioneering pilots. Visitors can sit in the cockpit of a Harrier, open locker doors and discover the stories of real workers and pilots at the site and find out about the many aviation firsts and records set at Brooklands. Underneath, workshops for training in aviation preservation skills welcome students and other Museum professionals as part of an ongoing learning programme.

The whole experience is enhanced and brought to life by volunteer stewards and demonstrators, some of them former employees of the Brooklands factories (which employed 14,000 people from surrounding towns and villages at their peak). The volunteers share their own reminiscences making every visit unique and which is a highlight for most visitors.

The Awards are judged by a panel of the sector’s leaders and the winners will be announced at the Awards Ceremony on Wednesday May 16th in London.

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