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LarryH57

What's the worst Military Museum in the UK?

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Purely my opinion, but it has to be the RAF Museum. OK to be fair it was good but over the years it has gone down hill in my estimation. Firstly they ruined the Battle of Britain Hall by installing a mini cinema screen and seating slap in the middle of it to show a film every half hour - but you are not allowed in to the main BoB hall to look at the aircraft while the film is showing. And to be frank this seating area has bu**ered up the floor area and takes away from the visual aspect that once was a Spitfire & Hurricane in blast pens. But that's not all, as once the film has finished the lights don't come on to the same brightness I knew of old and it is so dark and I don't mean just dull, I mean so dark you cannot see the exhibits. That ugly screen could so easily have been left out and replaced by a wide screen telly in some quiet corner rather than a great lump in the display area.

 

Next the RAF Museum moved the WW1 Graham White hangar at great expense from a few hundred yards away and used it to house many of the WW1 aircraft but so I understand from someone at the RAF Museum it has turned out to be less than ideal and costly to heat. Consequently it always seems to be closed when you go there. It actually opens for just 2 hours a day from 10am. By hiding these WW1 types away, the main RAF Museum has lost its focus. Who remembers when you started with WW1 types and moved on to all the Hawker biplanes then WW2 in a logical order.

 

Lastly the Milestones of Flight. I had high hopes for this when it was proposed but as ever it seems that huge sums went on consultants and the building including that large steel structure outside. In the end it houses very little in terms of artifacts and irritatingly it has some beautiful aircraft hanging from the ceiling, which means they cannot be viewed by more than a few angles. Imagine you went to the Tank Museum and saw Shermans & Panzers hanging from the ceiling or perhaps a Tiger mounted vertically on a pole - well you get the picture.

 

Sadly it seems that quite a few museums are ruined these days by people who have degrees in museum management but know nothing about history and architects / consultants drooling over the prospect of charging £20m because they heard the magic words 'Lottery Funding'.

 

An example of the above: In a town I know well there is a local museum that has been around for years and I knew the old Curator. It was originally like a journey through time, starting with a display of Stone Age finds from the local area continuing right up to WW2 exhibits. The other half of the museum was taken up with Natural History and it had a fine collection of stuffed animals, sea birds & garden birds etc in beautiful dioramas of their natural habitat. Sadly the Curator retired and in no time the whole Natural History collection had been ripped out, as according to one staff member stuffed animals are not PC and the rooms they occupied were made into empty meeting rooms. OK it might not be PC to stuff animals now but these had been around for many decades and chucking them in a skip seems a little harsh. My kids enjoyed them without being traumatised! And as for the few wartime exhibits, you have guessed correctly they have all been removed!

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Unless it's improved considerably. The D Day museum Portsmouth. Modern kit displayed supposedley as WW2, poor or just plain wrong explanations.

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I have to agree about the BofB hall. It's a dog's breakfast. My son and I experienced the film show thing and we had gone in specifically to see the German aircraft. I did not want to see them in a night time setting.

 

I think they have cocked this up royally. Forgive me, but I know there is a RAF Museum person who uses this site who is able to comment on this, so hopefully he will.

 

I think the Graham-White hangar is fantastic. It does open for brief periods and you have to be sure it is opening when visiting. In general terms I assume the RAFM is a victim of wanting to keep up to date by changing displays and remaining vibrant, because it must have regular visitors. I used to live there for quiet afternoons in my yoof. I can remember when the "old" National maritime museum, at Greenwich, was just a dust bowl of models and exhibits. But I am also old enough to remember the "old" Science museum, with it's sectioned steam train and rockets and stuff that was totally 'Boys Own', which must have been a main reason to change it. Modern rules of logic tell us Girls cannot possibly like trains.

 

I think some things have to be inter-active and come alive..but it should not to be to deterement of the item or to our intelligence. For me this is the knub of the matter. Museums have to assume we are all stoopid, because so many modern Brits are know-nothings. Mind you, I cannot tell you all the X-Factor contestants, so I'm lacking in knowledge, too. It's about priorities I suppose.

 

I HATE seeing aeroplanes hanging from ceilings. It smacks of telling the public they can actually fly (the modern RAF being a moot point with all the cuts). I imagine it is done for effect and to save space.Things on walls are not necessarily bad. The rank of cars in the Science Museum is spectacular.

Edited by Snapper

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I haven't seen the RAF museum but I agree wholeheartedly with Tony.

Whilst visiting family in the area I was adamant that I visited the D-Day Museum.

Rather dissapointing in my opinion...

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Did you try pointing any of this out to them? :-D I was asked by a member of staff when I visted did I enjoy it, I was truthful. After wards when he asked what I thought I knew about the subject, I pointed to the car park. The Dodge was parked outside loaded with kit to go to jersey for May 9th. :cool2:

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Duxford i'd say. Probably more due to my own interests - rare German artillery stuffed in the corner of the Land Warfare Hall as a 'captured equipment dump', a Bristol Fighter which is very spartan (no armament etc and just as a tag along for the Battle of Britain exhibition, as well as the Thornycroft AA gun), and the RE8 hung from the ceiling with two girders in the way. As well as that, a lot of aircraft are hidden by others, and/or facing away from the public. Plus endless rows of Spitfires doesn't do much for me, personally. That and the £16 entrance fee and extortionate and much below average food and drink doesn't help (food and drink applies to Bovington as well)

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Hey Rlangham,

 

I think I met you at the RAF Museum in the last year or so if it was you dressed up in a WW1 uniform of the Leics Regt in the Bomber Command hall? I went there with my son when the RAF Museum had various types dressed in period uniforms throughout the place which made a change! We had a good chat.

 

I should get myself a HMVF collar badge if they make them!

Edited by LarryH57
spelling

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Worst Museum has to be Birminghams Millenium point or what ever they call it. Some of the old exhibits from the science museum are in there like City of Birmingham and the tram but the rest is just a kids archade game. Total c**p! Why they had to seperate CoB and tender gaud only knows. Another case of experts who don't have a clue and paid ridiculous money getting involved. Been once and once too often!!

 

Phil.

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The National Maratime museum at Greenwich, currently being emptied so the space can be rented out for buissness functions! B***DY good timing you have to admit!

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Eden Camp - Malton, North Yorks

 

A shining example of the fact that something doesn't have to be good to pull in the punters. I was there about 5 years ago helping on a school visit and the place must have been entertaining 20 coach loads of kids as it ticked all the National Curriculum boxes.

 

The exhibits were very, very poor, summed up by a poorly built Airfix Lancaster tied to a piece of string which was fixed to an unseen motor which, when a button was pressed, jerked the aircraft across a rockery pond - and all this in a genuine wartime POW camp building.

 

For those who haven't been able to work out the obvious links and clues here, this was the building which commemorated the Dambusters raid............! Isn't it obvious?

 

As for the 'vehicle' exhibits, if you like your GMC with moss and litchen, fill yur boots!

 

Crap of the highest order which you can part with good money to see!

 

Alternatively stay in the car and go to the National Railway Museum in York, which is free and much better.

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In recognition of the fact that the BoB Hall at the RAF Museum has been ruined by turning the lights off - I hear that the BoB Hall will soon be having one of its side walls removed to be replaced with glass!

 

At last you will be able to see the exhibits. Now all they need to do is get rid of the seating area for the short film they show every half hour and employ some lively staff (like those at Cosford who know about the aircraft on display)

Edited by LarryH57

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I too would go with Duxford, the land warfare hall is too dark, making photography difficult and the exhibits are packed in too tight. They have a great selection of WW2 softskin, which you can only see either the back or front off, its such a shame.

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One of the best museums (to be positive here, rather than negative ;)) would be the National Army Museum in Chelsea. Been there a few times, excellent each time.

 

Well worth a visit, and they DO know their stuff :)

 

National Army Museum

Royal Hospital Road

Chelsea

London

SW3 4HT

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In my opinion, one of the worst is the army Medical services Museum in Keogh Barracks,Mytchett.

 

Although the internal dsiplays are interesting, the external row of ambulances is rusting away. Additionally, because it's an "operational base", photography of the external exhibits, which also include the ambulance coach from the Berlin Military Train, is prohibited. (one must ask why - the place is just a military tech college !)

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One of the best museums (to be positive here, rather than negative ;)) would be the National Army Museum in Chelsea. Been there a few times, excellent each time.

 

Well worth a visit, and they DO know their stuff :)

 

National Army Museum

Royal Hospital Road

Chelsea

London

SW3 4HT

It also qualifies as one of the worst as they do not allow any photography. Good museum with some good displays, though.

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well i will stick up for eden camp i think its ok , its a real POW camp they cant do much with the exhibits or knocking it about or it wouldnt be genuine would it :)

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Does anybody know what happened to the vehicles that were at the Museum of Military Transport in Beverley? Kind of liked that one, had sone nice displays and equipment. Last time I was there was in 96 (when I bought my FOX and BRDM).

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With all due respect and deference to your undoubted knowledge and skill in the subject of military vehicles, (and much superior to mine), it might be worthwhile recognising the fact that the museum people are probably employed to be caretakers of artifacts, not all-knowing experts on history. In my experience the museum people are keen to learn, have an interest in the subject and are generally receptive to new information.

 

Assuming that you are not upset by this email so far I would like to offer the possibility that Subject Matter Experts (SME) such as the HMVF membership could contribute to the knowledge of museums by sending in feedback forms with the correct information for displays, and helpful hints for improving the visitor experience. I use the museums as a source of information and like most visitors would benefit from accurate data. After all there are many contributors of information to this forum, why not extend that dissemination to the museums? It would be a shame not to make best use all of that accumulated and valuable knowledge.

 

And finally, as a professional project manager, I have completed several project tasks for charities and societies, freely and without charge, and am more than happy to contribute in any useful way to my choosen communities.

 

Hopefully, the forum readership will be open to further discussion on this matter, but try this for a starter. A photograph of a vehicle is published in the forum - the caption and details are incomplete or wrong - the forumers contribute to the corrected caption - an authorised member of the forum communicates with the museum (to ensure that contribution is credited to and approved by the HMVF) - the museum has the correct information for display - we all benefit!

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malyutkaman

 

Re Beverly I know of two only, the Churchill is now at Bovington as a Gateguard which would be very fitting if it did not have that lump of pipe sticking out of the hull besa mount, its a Mk2 not a Mk1. When people on Flickr are pointing this out its time to get the hacksaw out.

 

The Crusader and its tank rail transporter has been reported by a HMVF member as being at a small railway museum in Northern England.

 

As to the other vehicles I have no idea- so much stuff just evaporates!

 

Steve

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I'm off to Duxford and Hendon this weekend. Both I consider to have stunning collections of aircraft and vehicles, but unfortunately, not always displayed to their best advantage. Lighting is usually enough for eye's to adjust and view exhibits, although this is really annoying for photographers like myself who would prefer good lighting. At least 90% of the exhibits are indoors, and protected from the weather. This at least gives future museum management the opportunity to have something to display in a different manner in the future.

 

Space is a big problem ( and its cost ), so you can understand why many exhibits are crammed in, but I can't help but wonder what amount of floor area in conventional hangars, Duxford could have had for the cost of the American Air Museum's 'Concrete Woodlouse'?

 

Crowding exhibits in and also hanging them from the roof also does nothing to assist their removal in the event of a fire. I've seen several museums loose valuable aircraft to fires. The Canadian airworthy Lancaster was almost lost to fire, and another museum saved their B-17 and B-25 because they could be moved. A fire in many museums could destroy a huge amount of history without any chance of saving anything.

 

Give me traditional hangars with exhibits free to be removed any day. It would also allow 'Special Event' outdoor photo opportunities which could bring additional revenue to museums. Just look how popular 'Night Photoshoots' are becoming.

 

Photos from Duxford and Hendon should start appearing on the forum early next week!

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CommanderChuff

 

I'm not upset by your point of view on the contrary I applaud it, unfortunately I doubt most museum management will be so sanguine about this, the attitude professional management is light years away from enthusiasts and after 3-7 years of academia and "serving their time" at some museum or other they consider themselves as the sole arbiters of museum management, taste and policy which is amplified by things that have been mentioned by earlier posters such as requirements of lottery funding, requirements of national curriculum to get further funding and general dumming down to get attendance figures up.

 

The problem is that in the past museums were staffed by true amateurs (La. & Fr. “for the love of it”) was often done as a second career, (and this can also apply to academia itself). The current requirements to get funding requires a professional curatorial staff, irrespective whether their skill set is appropriate and unfortunately it rarely is and that is why we hear the complaints about the aforementioned museums.

 

Steve

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Steve,

 

Thanks for responding and I understand your sentiments. This sort of entranchment is one of the battles which I fight daily in my professional life. Nevertheless, there are always opportunities to make life better for everyone, including the musuem and the visiting public. I was just trying to frame an approach where we all can benefit from contributing to the common good. In my hobby of model railways I know that a authentic steam loco or wagon is a temporary vision which is only available when some kind soul has restored it to be used in public. These vehicles then have a lifespan of 10 years (for a loco) before disappearing from view until it can be restored again. Bearing in mind the non-permamence of such objects of desire I am sure that a pro-active approach to dealing with museums can produce improvements to the quality of display and the accuracy of information. The museum pieces are mainly in public ownership and I would hope that even the most 'jobsworth' curator would be able to recognise the offer of help.

 

David.

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David,

While a lot of us work very closley with musuems, it depends entirley on the Curator/Manager of the establishment. Unfortunatley though an individual may be enthusiastic, go ahead and shown to be succesful, there are always those higher up the food chain with a negative attitude. Normally the ones who hold the purse strings. There is also English Heritage.....

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What I don't like in the museums: If the place a big white information plate on the particular vehicle. It destroys each photo :-(

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