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The Brooklands Aircraft Factory is almost open for business!

This Sunday (15th October), visitors to Aviation Day will get the chance to have a sneak preview of the Brooklands Aircraft Factory and Flight Shed exhibitions that are due to open later this year. As well as exploring the aircraft in the Aircraft Park, there will be a fly-in of light aircraft and engine runs of number of our aircraft and aero-engined cars*. There will also be limited access into the Flight Shed and Brooklands Aircraft Factory so visitors can see the final stages of this £8.25m project.

This exhibition is the culmination of a lot of hard work over a long time. The design process began with deciding on the key messages that we want visitors to take away. We knew that we wanted people to feel like they were in an aircraft factory, and to see how aircraft were designed, constructed and flown at Brooklands from the 1900s to the 1980s. Choosing which of our tens of thousands of objects to use to tell the story of aviation at Brooklands was much harder. After identifying the objects that could illustrate part of the narrative, the museum’s exhibition team worked with the exhibition designers, Ralph Applebaum Associates, to decide which items would make it into the new displays.

One of the focuses of the new displays is on the people that worked and flew here. Throughout the project we have been actively collecting items relating to the careers of workers in the factories at Brooklands, Kingston and Dunsfold. This means that we can shine a light on the lives of ordinary factory workers as well as the big names like Alcock & Brown and Sir George Edwards.

With messages and objects agreed upon, the attention turned to ensuring that all the objects were ready to go on display. With a large proportion of the items having been rescued from the factories when they closed, there were a large number of items in need of conservation from factory clocks to large sections of Concorde. This has taken a huge amount of man power and our thanks go to our dedicated volunteers who have carried out the vast majority of this work.

Next up was text. Although a professional scriptwriter was writing the actual text, the facts had to be provided in the form of briefs for every panel. Then came the editing, the wrangling over how much technical information to include, and the proofreading. All 215 object labels were written in house but caused just as many tears and tantrums** as we tried to condense down all of the interesting information about an object to meet the strict wordcount. Some of the team then jetted off to sunny Sheffield to visit our mechanical interactives producers, AIVAF, and see how they were getting on with finding a safe way for a child to do some riveting. Digital interactives (by Ay-Pe) are also going into the displays but, being digital, we could check these out via email so no field trip was necessary.

Now the time is almost upon us to open our doors and put all the hard work into action. Exhibits are moving into position, the floor markings have been painted and interactives are being installed. The different factory ‘workshops’ are taking shape as our fit-out contractor, Elmwood Projects, erect the scaffolding framework. The mount makers are creating the mounts, (Richard Rogers Conservation, Museum Workshop and Plowden & Smith) that will safely hold all the objects that will be on display.

It is really exciting to see something that we’ve been working towards for years finally becoming a reality. So come along on Sunday 15th and get a sneak peek at what we’re working on.

*The fly-in and engine runs are weather dependent.

** There were no actual tears or tantrums that I know of but who can resist a nice bit of alliteration?

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P1127 being lifted
Brooklands Aircraft Factory under construction