RAF Museum to digitise thousands of World War I archive records for 1914-18 centenary

By Culture24 Reporter | 05 December 2012
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a detail of casualty card dating to 1916
A casualty card - just one of the thousands of First World War related documents in the archive of the RAF Museum© RAF Museum

The RAF Museum’s plans to develop a major exhibition at its London site to coincide with the 2014-2019 commemoration of the centenary of the First World War received a boost today with news of funding for a major digitisation project.

The Hendon-based museum has received £64,000 from the Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund to digitise, preserve and provide public access to around 300,000 First World War personnel records as part of a new permanent exhibition exploring the 1914-18 conflict.

Plans are already in place to create the exhibition, which will use the RAF Museum’s world famous collection of First World War aeroplanes and objects to tell the less well known story of "The First War in the Air" through a diverse range of human stories and exhibits.

Now the Esmée Fairbairn grant will allow the Museum to complete the conservation and digitisation of its vast collection of First World War RFC, RNAS and RAF personnel records and enable online and in-gallery public access.

The curator leading the exhibition, Adam Shepherd,  said the Museum had “only partially tapped into its rich and diverse collections” during the past 40 years.

“This grant will enable it to preserve and provide access to more of the collections than ever before and enable the Museum to begin telling the story of the people who served in the Royal Air Force – who there were and what they did," he added.

Promising a “thought provoking, imaginative and exciting” interpretation of war memories and “wide ranging stories of human endeavour, skills and innovation”, the Museum is also seeking to promote the theme through a far more active and engaging use of its nationally significant collections.

In November the museum asked the public to engage with the project by inviting them to choose archive objects which would feature in the display, posted on the RAF Museum Flickr and Pinterest streams.

  • To view the Flickr and Pinterest streams, visit www.rafmuseum.org and click on the picture links located at the bottom of any page of the website.
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