How did you become a volunteer at RAF Cosford?
I came to a Conservation Open Day with members of my archery club. They invited me as they thought I might be interested due to my involvement in postgraduate study of Conservation of Archaeological and Museum Objects. I got talking to the engineering volunteers and staff and they were really keen to have me on board as my studies mean I have a different knowledge and skills base to everyone else.
You volunteer in the Engineering Team, what is your role within the team?
The volunteer team actually splits up into several different “crews” (generally one per hangar and then a couple of other teams working on specific, larger projects). Rather than being assigned to any one “crew” however, I “float” between them, working with the materials they are less familiar with. Currently I’m working on repairing the headrest from the Fairey Delta 2, helping to make the Consolidated Vultee PBY-6A Catalina weather and critter-proof and I’m also working on making a condition check of the aircraft tyres in the museum, the aim being to isolate any factors that are leading to deterioration and hopefully even find a treatment for it.
What aspects do you enjoy most about volunteering at the Museum?
while being able to get up close to these aircraft and thus gain a far greater appreciation of them is a very obvious draw, I also love learning more about each individual aircraft we work on. I was taught at university that it’s essential to get as much information as you can about the object you are working on, as this helps to ensure that you do not remove a part of an object’s story in your conservation. For example it would be a bit of an ethical grey area to completely repair a hole in the fuselage of an aircraft if it had been put there by anti-aircraft fire during its life in service. In fact, as a general rule most conservators work on the understanding that the only entirely ethical conservation work is done to remove damage that is present as a result of natural deterioration or has been done during the object’s time in a museum, and even then only if said work is reversible. These ethics, together with the range of materials I can be working with offer the real draw for me though. I adore working out the best way to satisfy the Museum’s needs, the needs of the curatorial staff and the needs of the object. All while making sure that the work is as reversible as possible and with the tools available to me. It’s so satisfying when you find the answer in the end and even more so when you have finished the project and know you have done the work well.
How has working at the Museum helped you develop your skill set?
A lot of the materials I work with here are ‘newer’ materials than I’m used to working with on my Postgrad. These materials are only just beginning to appear in conservation laboratories and are only just beginning to show deterioration issues. So I have to do quite a lot of research and really work on expanding my skills to work with them properly.