Out and About: Imperial War Museum Duxford (Claire Messenger)

Written by Claire Messenger, International Training Programme Manager

Many of our ITP Fellows have visited the Imperial War Museum London as part of their Museum Project Day.  I think, without exception, they have all been very pleasantly surprised by their visit and I’ve certainly enjoyed hearing back on their thoughts and feelings after they have explored a museum that covers the history of conflict from World War I to the present day.

So as research for the ITP alumni, I visited the Imperial War Museum Duxford recently.  The historic airfield and museum telling the stories of those who lived, fought and died in war from World War I to 1969 is just a short train journey from London into Cambridgeshire and somewhere I would highly recommend for our ITPers this summer.

IWM Duxford is one of the world’s leading aviation museums and has an extraordinary collection of historic aircraft including Spitfires, a Hurricane, a Lancaster and even Concorde!! But the museum is so much more than that as it uses eight aircraft hangers on a working airfield that has a history stretching back to the First World War to display its collection of over 300 aircraft and objects.

There is so much to see and do, I particularly enjoyed the way the museum tells the story of warfare using so many voices from pilots to journalists and photographers and even the women from Greenham Common’s Peace Camp (protests camps established to protest against nuclear weapons being based in the UK). While the museum tells the stories of its aircraft and collection of artillery pieces, it also tells the stories of individuals involved in and affected by the conflicts it focuses on.

When we visited, on a beautiful day in February, the museum was full of children enjoying a day out during their half-term school holidays and one of their favourite things to do seemed to be seeing ‘Conservation in Action’.  Staff and volunteers from IWM Duxford were busy working to preserve the museum’s collections but were taking time-out to talk to groups of children about their work and helping them complete trails and questionnaires.

So if, during this summer’s International Training Programme you have a weekend free – or if any of our alumni are back visiting the UK – do put this on your list of ‘things to do’.  I know you will find things to see and do that will both surprise and inspire but perhaps most importantly the collection and the individual stories will make you think.