Cold War Exhibition Opens In Spectacular New RAF Cosford Building

By Graham Spicer | 07 February 2007
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photo of a futuristic metallic hangar building with an aircraft inside it

The new building is made up of two massive triangular forms. Photo RAF Museum

The RAF Museum at Cosford has opened its National Cold War Exhibition in a spectacular new building at the Shropshire air base.

Covering more than 8,000 square metres, the metallic structure tells the story of the tensions between political superpowers that affected the whole world for a large part of the 20th century.

The distinctive new building, designed by architects Fielden Clegg Bradley, is made from two large triangular constructions divided by a central walkway to represent the divisions caused by the Cold War.

photo of an raf jet aircraft suspended from the ceiling in a hangar building

Many Cold War aircraft like this Gloster Javelin are displayed in the huge building. Photo RAF Museum

Its new exhibition hall tells the story of the period from national, international, political, social and cultural perspectives. It aims to inform and educate about this era in modern history where the world was divided by the opposing ideologies of the west and the communist bloc.

Examples of Britain’s three ‘V bombers’ – the Vulcan, Victor and Valiant – take pride of place and are displayed under one roof for the first time.

As well as the aircraft, the exhibition includes armoured fighting vehicles, a section of the Berlin Wall, missiles, model submarines, a statue of Lenin and symbols of everyday life for east and west like the VW Beetle and Trabant motorcars.

There are also a host of interactive features with audio-visual ‘hotspots’ that focus on key aspects of the Cold War like the Berlin Airlift, Cuban Missile Crisis and the Space Race.

photo of a futuristic metallic hangar building

The new building is the biggest expansion in the history of the RAF Museum. Photo RAF Museum

The Cold War developed from the mid-1940s between the wartime allies America and the Soviet Union, and while there was no direct military engagement, the two superpowers played out their ambitions via satellite nations and through conflicts like the Korean and Vietnam Wars.

It came to an end in the early 1990s with the disintegration of the Soviet Union.

Alongside the new building the museum has launched an online Cold War exhibition, which features a 440,000-word archive, downloadable classroom lessons, film and podcasts plus a virtual tour of the museum.

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