Although I am ‘Blogger in Residence’ for the ‘First World War in the Air’ exhibition, it is not the only exhibition at the RAF Museum and it does not exist in isolation. Just like teaching the history of the First World War, you have to understand what went before and what came after to truly begin to understand the human history of war as well as the development of flight. The Grahame-White Factory may be the oldest part of the site and the closest link to that early aviation history, but at the museum you can also take in the Milestones of Flight gallery and see the major events in the history of aviation. You can wander around the historic hangers, the Bomber Hall and the Battle of Britain Hall, not forgetting the cafe, restaurant and shop when you are in need of a little rest!
To understand how the ‘First World War in the Air’ exhibition has been put together, to see how this part of the story has been told, I have often wandered around the museum, watching visitors, learning the stories and talking to staff. To understand how a museum works, it is always good to see it busy and thronging with visitors, not just in one exhibition space but across the whole site.
When I heard over 1,000 Cub Scouts were coming to the museum for the day, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to really see the museum at work. The cubs had all come from Leicestershire, a two-hour coach trip and long day ahead, each pack were marshalled with impressive organisation around the museum. The main aim of the day was to achieve their Air Activities Badge – they were given a worksheet to plough through, tricky question sheets on identifying different parts of a plane and testing them on their knowledge of different types of aircraft.
They were also given the opportunity to try on original World War II uniforms. I was in awe of the education teams who set up stations around the museum, each member of staff had 13 groups to get through. The children’s hands shot up when they were given the option to be a pilot, or a rear gunner. Somehow finding their hands in over-long armholes, they alternated between RAF and Cub Scout salutes for wonderful photos that will be special mementoes of their day.
My favourite moment was seeing a young girl from the Whitwick Scout Group saying her promise in front of a Spitfire. A wonderful way to join an organisation giving young boys and girls amazing opportunities and lots of fun too. They proudly received the badges, shaking hands with a World War II pilot in the shadow of the Lancaster and the Spitfire.
This is where a museum truly comes alive, this is how memories of the past can be kept for the next generation. By the end of the day I was quite worn out watching these industrious boys and girls (and adults in charge) rushing round the museum. Whilst I didn’t hear one word of ‘Ging Gang Goolie’, I did witness exceptionally good behaviour and kids to be proud of. So well done Leicestershire Scouts, you deserve your badges and I hope you come back again soon.
You can find out more about Scout visits to the RAF Museum and how to get your Air Activities Badges here – RAF Museum & Scouts