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Exhibition development

Duxford is very lucky to have an active veterans association. The ‘Old Dux’ are ex-Duxford personnel of all ranks and trades. They meet twice a year, here at Duxford, and communicate regularly via a newsletter.

I am very pleased to say that the Old Dux have given us permission to put some of their stories here on our blog for everyone to see.  Many of them have been included in the newsletter over the years and I have really enjoyed going through them and picking out some extracts to share. The stories of the men and women who served here are vitally important to Historic Duxford and so it’s only fair they feature on the blog too!

I thought this poem was a good way to start:
Go pin your medals on; be proud they’re yours to wear,
Pull your shoulders back a bit and let the youngsters stare.
They are yours by right of war; by service to the crown.
They are symbols that you did not let your side down.
Wear them proudly on your chest and let all who will deride.
They are yours by right of war, so carry them with pride.

It is not known who wrote this poem but it reminded me how behind every set of medals worn by a veteran is a wealth of stories and experiences. Duxford’s veterans are no exception.

Do you know anyone who served or still serves in the armed forces? What are their war and peacetime stories?

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Visitor talking to a member of staff

Well, all that hard work paid off. Over the last few months we have spoken to hundreds of you to find out what you want to see in the final exhibition and it was worth it.

We have had some great conversations with visitors, disabled groups, local communities and veterans. All of you have expressed a keen interest in what we are doing and hopefully most of you will be lined up to see the new exhibition when it opens in about 18 months time.

So what did you have to say?

Well, a lot of you felt that to tell the human side of Duxford’s story was really important. The experiences of the men and women who lived and worked here came out as one of the most important things you thought we should cover. That is why we have been reviewing our archive of interviews with veterans. Carl has already posted a fantastic video that features clips from several interviews and there are many more. We have also been adding a few to the collection too. Not only will these be useful for the exhibition but they will add to an extremely important archive that documents, first hand, the memories of the those individuals who served at Duxford.

You also thought that objects were really important to see in the exhibition (hooray!) Many of you felt that they help bring to life the history that you see in a museum and provide a fantastic link to the past. So we’ve continued digging around in the museum collections to find everything we can that relates to Duxford. This is where the expertise of the curators comes in. They know their collections inside out and so can help us find any hidden gems. I will keep you up to date of the things we find. You can also have a look for yourself by visiting our online collections database.

Happy hunting!

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Bob Hope and Frances Langford. By permission of the Imperial War Museum, IWM HU57979

One of the photos in our Historic Duxford ‘taster’ display in AirSpace is of Bob Hope and Frances Langford visiting the American 78th Fighter Group at Duxford. The photo appears to be a morale boosting shot, but actually Bob Hope and Frances Langford visited in July 1943 only a few days after the Commanding Officer, Colonel Arman ‘Pete’ Peterson had been lost on a mission. According to the Duxford Diary, Bob Hope admitted he had had trouble getting the audience at Duxford to laugh. Not surprising when they had lost such a respected leader. I think it adds a whole new dimension to the photograph. What do you think?

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VoiceAbility consultation

As part of our ongoing consultation process we had a group of 11 young people from the Cambridgeshire VoiceAbility Youth Parliament visit Duxford on 24 March. They came ready to test out our existing exhibitions, especially AirSpace, and to give us their thoughts and ideas for Historic Duxford.

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Public meeting in the Marshall Auditorium, IWM Duxford

On 10 March we held a public meeting to introduce Historic Duxford to local communities. The Interpretation team were out in force to chat to people about the project, share our enthusiasm and, most importantly, get some ideas!

We had a good turn out, including some ex-Duxford personnel, who had some exciting tales to tell! It was great to hear people, other than ourselves, getting behind the idea of the exhibition and excited about the potential it holds.

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Hangar 3: Air and Sea and the Watch Office. By permission of the Imperial War Museum, IWM_SITE_DUX_000317

Phase 1 of the interpretation of Historic Duxford will take place in what is currently known as Building 89. This building was used in the 1930s as a Watch Office, where the duty pilot or officer on watch would be stationed during flying activity.  It was built in 1917/1918, along with Hangar 3: Air and Sea. These are the first 1918 buildings that visitors encounter on their journey through the Museum.

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Pilots of No. 19 and No. 616 Squadrons pose by a Spitfire. By permission of the Imperial War Museum, IWM CH 1400

I’m Carl, Duxford’s Exhibitions Manager, and I’ll be running this blog while developing the content for Historic Duxford. For our first post, I thought I’d explain what we’re going to be doing in the first weeks of the project. This can be summed up in one word: ‘evaluation’.

We want to ensure that we incorporate all the good stuff from previous projects, change the things that didn’t work, and get people to contribute their thoughts and ideas at the outset.

There are several parts to this.

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Gordon Sinclair's crashed Spitfire. By permission of the Imperial War Museum, IWM HU 58240

Hi, I’m Sarah and I am the Exhibitions Officer here at Duxford. Unlike Carl, I am new to the place so a lot of the things you will be learning about Historic Duxford, here on the blog, I am learning too!

This photograph amazed me when I saw it! It is such a still and quiet image yet to get a Spitfire turned over like that must have involved serious drama. I have since found out that this is quite a well-known photo at Duxford and that the pilot Gordon Sinclair was actually recorded talking about the event that led to his aircraft ending up upside-down on the airfield.

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