I said that one of my New Years’ Resolutions was to visit the smaller kind of museum, the quirkier kind that people might not notice. So far I haven’t really been able to do that. Mainly, that has been due to work or some other commitment but this week I had a very rare day off.
So, what am I to do with a day off? Simple: go exploring.
To Shoreham-by-Sea on the south coast I journeyed. For such a small town, Shoreham has loads of interesting features; old churches, the remains of an old manor house as well as a couple of museums. It even has an airport…
Shoreham Airport was opened in 1936 according to the stone by the entrance. The main building is a charming example of the Art Deco architecture popular at that time. Nowadays, though, it looks like it needs a lick of paint and a little bit of love. It sits awkwardly in the middle of an industrial site, an almost lost relic of a bygone era.
Sitting next to the lovely (albeit dilapidated) main building is an unbecoming demountable -the kind that is, in theory, temporary but becomes increasingly permanent.
“Visitor Centre – Museum – Guided Tours” claimed the building.
In we go…
Not really having a background in aeronautics, nor Airfix models, most of the collection was fairly lost on me. It was interesting to see the kind of planes that used to fly from the airport, but having them shut away in cases that screamed, almost literally DO NOT TOUCH rather took the magic away. While I was there, a grandmother with her grandchildren paid a visit to the museum too. Miraculously she helped the collection become meaningful for her young grandchildren, “Do you see these models?” she asked them “When your Dad was little I used to help him make these. I think we had one just like this.”
How sweet! It’s always good when someone can make the collection personal.
Even though most of the models were somewhat lost on me, there was one that really stood out, a model of a proto-type mono plane, which looks not entirely unlike the USS Enterprise. Unfortunately, it was rather hidden away on top of a glass case. Not particularly user friendly…
The star-object for me though, has to be this ejector seat. An actual ejector seat! Naturally my first instinct is to get involved and try to sit on it.
Oh, DO NOT TOUCH rears its ugly head again. Fine then.
Now, you may be thinking that the airport looks a little bit familiar to you, perhaps it does. You see, Shoreham Airport is something of a ‘celeb.’ My sources (read: local residents) tell me that it has appeared in episodes of Poirot and the film version of The Da Vinci Code. You would think that this would warrant some space in the museum, wouldn’t you?
It seems not.
The only display relating to the airport’s use in films/tv/books is one about a mention in a 1987 espionage thriller called Spycatcher.
I haven’t heard of it either.
Even though this museum is a free one, I was a little bit disappointed with what is being done with it. Everything was very ‘hands off’ but in a way that alienated the visitor. The space holds lots of interesting information but doesn’t really know what to do with it. Local schools would have a field day using some of the stuff to do a local history project, and the nearby aviation college would surely find it to be a valuable resource.
Maybe I’ve just been spoiled by the Big Museums?