New permanent exhibition at IWM Duxford

Our new permanent exhibition and historic trail opens on Thursday 28 March

Historic Duxford is a brand new exhibition and historic site trail which explores Duxford’s time as an RAF airfield from 1918 to 1961.

It is our first new permanent exhibition since the opening of AirSpace in 2007.

This exciting new exhibition has been under development for almost two decades, with the creation and delivery taking three years to complete.

Steve Woolford, Head of Interpretation and Collections, said:

‘IWM Duxford is famously known for its air shows and large-scale exhibitions, such as AirSpace. For the first time, we are giving visitors an insight into the heart of this historic site, telling RAF Duxford’s own story.

Historic Duxford builds on what we’ve created in AirSpace and in the reconstructed 1940 Operations Room. In AirSpace, the historic objects take the lead in the exhibition, with personal stories supporting the interpretation and understanding of those objects. In Historic Duxford, the personal stories of the men and women who lived, worked and fought for their country at RAF Duxford, take centre stage, supported by the personal objects that help to convey those stories.

We’ve been working for many years to research the stories of the men and women who passed through the gates at RAF Duxford. This gives us the incredible depth and intensity of personal stories that we now tell in Historic Duxford. One of our most famous characters is Douglas Bader, and in the exhibition we not only have his dress cap and jacket on display, but we have a film of him talking about his experiences at RAF Duxford, rare 1930s home-shot film of him off-duty, plus the personal memories of his RAF colleagues.

In Historic Duxford, we’re able to show why Duxford is so important historically and also to help visitors to look at our historic site with fresh eyes.’

Historic Duxford is housed in the original 1930s Watch Office building. In the exhibition, we explore Duxford’s fascinating history. As a typical RAF fighter base, Duxford experienced significant historic events, military developments and social change during the first half of the twentieth century.

RAF Duxford was created during the latter stages of the First World War to train pilots for war.

Between the wars, it was part of ‘the best flying club in the world’ and an important arena for showcasing the RAF’s capabilities to royalty, the press and the public.

RAF Duxford’s Second World War history is perhaps the best known, with the dogfights of the Battle of Britain, and, later, the arrival of the American forces.

Finally, we look at the Cold War era, when many men did their National Service at RAF Duxford, and the station’s eventual closure in 1961.

With many things to watch, listen to, have a go at, wear and even smell, Historic Duxford paints a vivid picture of daily life at RAF Duxford.

Hear and see fascinating personal stories told by the men and women who worked and lived at RAF Duxford, in sound and film. We look at their jobs, living conditions and how they spent their leisure time.

Our interactives will immerse you in the lives of RAF Duxford’s service men and women, as you learn how they spent their working day and the skills they needed to do their jobs to exacting RAF standards.

Personal objects tell the stories of some of the remarkable individuals who served at RAF Duxford.

For the first time in almost a decade, items owned by Douglas Bader will be on display alongside scenes from a rare 1930s home film which shows Bader, alongside his RAF friends and colleagues, having fun off-duty.

See the Watch Office, the forerunner to the Control Tower, as it might have been during the late 1930s. Period details and interactive elements give the impression that the Duty Pilot has only just left the room.

Complementing the Historic Duxford exhibition is a heritage trail around the historic site with eight interactive posts. Each post features audio memories from veterans who worked at RAF Duxford. Pick up a family activity sheet from the exhibition to complete as you follow the trail.

Discover Duxford’s own story – its eventful past and fascinating people.

Historic Duxford opens to visitors on Thursday 28 March. Historic Duxford is included in general admission to IWM Duxford. Visitors aged 15 and under enjoy free admission to IWM Duxford.

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