The New Archive

The Archives are now settled in to our new home in a brand new re-configured and climate controlled storage facility, with equipment for digitisation. This makes it so much easier to look after the Archives according to professional standards.

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In Arborfield, the Archives were stored in three separate parts: the Documentary Archives, the Pictorial Archives and the Technical Archives. In Lyneham, these have been merged into one Archive under myself, the new Museum Archivist, who with great foresight managed to avoid the unpacking of the crates and boxes by starting in February this year and so missing the decanting process. I am so grateful to my Museum colleagues who liberated the material from the packing boxes and placed them on the new shelves.

We now have all the Archives handily located in one room, on mobile shelving and our collections of EMERs and AESPS have a special room all of their own.

Since moving in, we have been arranging and sorting out the collections storage, acquiring new material, assessing the Archives Service and making arrangements to improve the way the Archive is managed and services delivered. Although not yet open, we look forward to receiving enquiries and visitors once we are, and so we are working on getting our enquiries and research service ready.

Working with me in the Archives is the new Corps Historian, my colleague in archives and research and fount of REME knowledge, who you will hear from soon on this blog.

As a newbie, it has been (and remains) a steep learning curve and quite a journey to get to know the collections and learn more about REME and the Corps history: from Land Rovers to LADs; BARVs, CRARRVs and ARVs; from Egypt to East Africa; from Burma to Belize; from Italy to India – working with the Museum Archives is like taking a world tour!

Celia Cassingham – Museum Archivist

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REME in East Africa, 1953-54

 

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Typical recovery in Burma
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Latest news from the REME Museum

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It’s been 10 months since the last update, and an incredibly busy 10 months it’s been.

The Museum was due to open on October 1st 2016. As most will notice we were unable to meet this deadline. It became evident that essential building works were needed in order to ensure that the building was fit for purpose as a Museum and that our visitors have the best experience possible.

Work is now well underway to address these issues and we are working towards a new opening time in Spring 2017, exact details to follow.

Throughout the year we have continued with the development of the gallery designs, sorting and selecting objects for displays, developing new education sessions, designing the new café and reorganising the extensive archive collection.

We have welcomed new staff and sadly said goodbye to some as well. We have enjoyed meeting our new neighbours, including schools, museums, heritage sites and local community groups.

We are now entering the final stages of the project. Once the building works are completed this month, we will begin the installation of displays and showcases. As well as the design project we are now looking ahead to our events programme for 2017. This includes a series of temporary exhibitions, an evening lecture series, family events and special public events.

The pace is definitely picking up as we near the end of 2016. Over the next few months we will keep you updated with news about the galleries and their development, as well as news from the Archives and Education Departments.

We hope you’ll enjoy reading.

Jennifer Allison – Curator

 

Last one out, turn off the lights

The REME Museum was established in 1958 on the ground floor of Moat House, Arborfield. In 1985 it moved across the road, and continued to expand and develop over the next 30 years.

In April 2015 the Museum hosted its final event before closing to the public. The next 6 months saw staff and volunteers packing over 100,000 items along with offices and furniture.

On the 27th November, the Museum building was officially handed over and the ‘REME Museum of Technology’ in Arborfield came to an end.

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Former Trades Display Gallery
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Former Prince Philip Vehicle Hall Display
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Former Rowcroft Display

We are now starting a new stage in our history as the ‘REME Museum’. Over the past year an incredible amount of work has gone into designing the displays for the new Museum, and with the help of REME Recovery Mechanics the majority of our vehicles have now been put into position in the main galleries.

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WW2 Gallery showing Morris Commercial, Beach Armoured Recovery Vehicle and Churchill Armoured Recovery Vehicle.

The Museum is now closing until the 4th January so that staff can have a well earned rest and recharge themselves ready for 2016 which will see all of the displays and text created, installed and the Museum reopened to the public.

From all staff at the REME Museum, we wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

See you in 2016!

Jennifer Allison – Curator

The move has started….

It has been an incredibly busy month since our last post and an incredible amount of work has been done.

As well as continuing with focus groups and education sessions, the main work has centered around the relocation of the collection to our new site in Lyneham.

The biggest items in our collection are our vehicles, and these have started the transfer up the M4 and into Lyneham. To be able to move them, Museum staff had to dismantle all the dioramas which involved shoveling a lot of sand, rocks and rubble into wheelbarrows (the glamorous side of working in a Museum!).

Vehicle hall getting empty

The vehicles from Arborfield will be relocated by the end of this week, and next week all vehicles from Bordon will begin to be relocated. The last to go will be those vehicles which are going to be on display in the new Museum. Because they are so big, we need to move them in to the new Museum before we can move in the cases, panels and other display items. This is going to mean a lot of help from the Recovery Mechanics and an external company Metcalf Farms, to help get the vehicles in the right position. After all, we don’t just want to move our Churchill ARV in to the hall, we then want to rotate it 90 degrees without damaging the floor at all. Simple!

Loaded Stalwart

 

As well as the vehicles, some of our other larger items, such as our bell tower, have had to be relocated.

Despite it being an incredibly foggy day which brought London airports to a standstill, the work took place to lift up the tower from its base. What originally seemed like a straight forward task quickly presented its own problems. We had originally thought that the tower was in a temporary base from which it could be lifted out. However, two hours later it became obvious that the tower was firmly in place. Alistair, of Creative Timberwork, happened to be passing by. Alistair had lived in the married quarters on the Garrison and learnt to ride at the Arborfield Stables. He was keen to lend a hand and came back with a car-load of tools. Unfortunately, the bell tower still wouldn’t move.

Bell tower at night out of the ground

Now getting dark, the decision was made to cut the tower at the base allowing it to finally be freed. It has already been relocated to Lyneham and we will be looking for help in the local area to recreate the central section which had to be cut so that it can be restored to its full height when it is back on display.

In Lyneham, we have now started moving everything in. This includes the hundreds of boxes which we have been packing since we closed in April 2015. And space is filling up quickly!

Collection in boxes

Uniform collection

As well as the boxes, we have had our Scout helicopter delivered to the site as well. This took place earlier this week in the rain and the dark, but with the perseverance of REME Recovery Mechanics, the Scout was brought into its new home.

Scout coming off the low loaderScout being pushed into place

The Museum has had to dispose of a number of things which it won’t be taking to the new location. This has included cupboards, shelving and even display cases which have been transferred to various military museums including the Royal Signals Museum and internally to the REME School of Army Aeronautical Engineering.

Mannequins on the moveSome of the stranger things we have had to find a home for has been our large collection of mannequins. But here are some of them, dismantled for the journey and off to their new home in St Athens.

We still have a few random limbs which are looking for a new home!

The Museum is now operating from two sites and we are hoping to be fully relocated by the end of November.

Jennifer Allison – Curator

Juliet Turk – Assistant Curator

The last little bit

With only a couple of weeks until we are officially relocated, the staff are busy preparing for the transition to our new home. The store rooms and display areas are emptying fast with most boxes now stacked on pallets and ready toBoxes on pallets move. The most notable difference is seen in our archives with hundreds of boxes being stacked high, ready to be loaded onto trucks.
The dismantling and reassembling of shelves is also taking place to ensure that our objects and archives are stored suitably in the new Museum. A few of our cases will not be coming with us but they have found new homes with other museums such as the Household Cavalry Museum. We are sure they’ll get as much use out of them as we did!

Staff goodbye meal

In the hubbub of moving, we took some time out last Wednesday for our farewell meal. It was a momentous and sad occasion for the staff as we said goodbye to five of our members: Lt Col (Ret’d) John Edwards, Mr Brian Baxter, Mr Ian Fisher, Mr John Blaney and Mr Malcolm Heppolette. Many of them have served longstanding years with the Museum and have contributed in their own way to developing the Museum. Brian Baxter, the Technical Historian, had served 62 years with REME. 32 of these he spent in the Museum sharing his vast knowledge and expertise with staff and visitors. We look forward to seeing them again when the Museum reopens next year.Birthday cake

Last Thursday, 1st October, marked a significant moment for the Corps, as it was on the 1st October 1942 that the Corps was formed. Celebrating the Corps 73rd birthday in true style, we tucked into some chocolate cake while thinking about where we would be in the coming months. This time next year we hope to be welcoming visitors (if all goes to plan!).

Despite having to relinquish our computers and desks, the staff here are determined to work to the very last day. The Assistant Curator will be making a trip to London for an oral history interview before the move to ensure that this key story is captured and stored in the archives for future use. The Curator is organising various focus groups with REME trades. These discussions have proved incredibly useful and will influence a large part of the narrative for the new Museum. As well as this, the new website will be launched to coincide with the move so keep your eyes peeled for this new development!

It is an exciting time for the new Museum, a chance to reorganise our collection stores, redesign our displays and set new challenging targets for the year ahead. We are looking forward to stepping into our new home and charging forward in 2016.

Juliet Turk – Assistant Curator

Less than 3 weeks to go!

With only 20 days to go until we have access to our new home, our current location is looking more like a storage warehouse than a Museum. Almost all of the displays have now been taken down and packed and the large graphic structures which housed cases and gave information have also begun to be dismantled.

Some of the 1000 medals packed and ready to go
Some of the 1000 medals packed and ready to go
Boxes waiting to be transferred to Lyneham
Boxes waiting to be transferred to Lyneham

A lot of the packing has been done over the past few months by our dedicated team of volunteers. However, there are a lot of items which need a more specialised approach. Staff from Specialist Packers started working at the Museum two weeks ago and have been able to deal with some of our more awkward items, such as missiles and mannequins.

The former James Johnston Room
The former James Johnston Room
A Guardroom mannequin packed and ready to go
A Guardroom mannequin packed and ready to go

 

 

 

 

 

 

We are almost ready to start moving things to our new home. So far everything is on schedule and we will be picking up the keys on the 28th September. Not long to go!

Some of our items are already waiting in Lyneham. The biggest item to be moved over the last couple of weeks has been our Scout helicopter. This couldn’t have been done without the help of REME Recovery Mechanics, members of the Joint Aircraft Recovery and Transportation Squadron (JARTS), and Babcock Technicians. The move of the Scout took the whole day, starting with it being brought down from the plinth, then wheeled up a road with a police escort and finally put onto a low loader for transfer to Lyneham.

The Man SVR had to get as close as possible to get the Scout down
The Man SVR had to get as close as possible to get the Scout down
Lift off!
Lift off!
Wheeled down the road with a police escort
Wheeled down the road with a police escort
Onto the low loader
Onto the low loader

A video showing the move of the Scout throughout the day can be seen on You Tube: https://youtu.be/K8Lgn-8PTgI

The Scout isn’t the only larger item which we have been packing in recent weeks. In the Museum’s former Meeting Room there was a large model depicting the D-Day landings. This model was built in situ and had been in place for the past 20 years. It proved quite a challenge for staff and packers on how we were going to be able to take it apart so that we could put it back together again.

D Day model divided into sections
D Day model divided into sections

The model was divided into sections and photographs of these sections taken at multiple angles. Each section was then dismantled and put into marked bags showing where it came from.

The model will be back on show in Lyneham.

The next few weeks will see larger items and vehicles moved into our new hangar in Lyneham. From the 1st October, the rest of the collections will start being moved across with staff following behind.

Jennifer Allison – Curator

Thank you to all our Volunteers

Volunteers have been incredibly important to the Museum for many years. They have helped with research, exhibitions, archiving and education to name just a few of the projects.

Over the past few months, volunteers have been a vital part of the packing process at the Museum. Since April, an additional 12 volunteers joined us in the mammoth task of packing up the numerous objects which we have on display and in storage. Training them in the early days, it has been an absolute joy getting to know each one of them and seeing them grow in confidence. They are now aware of various conservation issues including approaching me with items possibly affected by pest damage.

There have been several occasions when we have come across something truly remarkable in the collection. I remember the day that our volunteer, Reg, came across an extremely ornate presentation piece containing several tools and apprentice pieces. He kept looking at it, admiring its craftsmanship.

Presentation piecePresentation piece (2) (2)

Another time I remember was when our volunteer Paul marveled at the weird and wonderful things which we had in the collection, such as a tub of grease and ear defenders which were donated by a workshop.

I can honestly say that the staff and volunteers have enjoyed looking through and packing the variety of objects which we have, and learning about the breadth of REME’s involvement in various campaigns and countries.Salerno wheel

Tuesday the 11th August was a momentous occasion where we saw the last item, a workshop shovel, being packed by our volunteer Ida. This was also the day when we packed our ship’s wheel found in Salerno. The item was packed so well that the shape of the object is still obvious despite the layers of conservation materials!

Wheel

As we laid the last item on the pile of objects packed that day, there were mixed feelings of relief and sadness that the giant task of preparing the collection for transport was now complete.

WVolunteer Barbecue 2015ednesday saw us celebrating this achievement with a barbecue in the Museum grounds. The weather was kind as we enjoyed the heat and company of those around us. Talking over sausages and burgers, we reminisced about fun times and our plans for the future.

Volunteer Barbecue 2015

My heartfelt thanks goes out to all the wonderful volunteers who gave up their time to help the Museum with this next stage in moving to Lyneham. I am confident that the objects will be safe in transit and we look forward to unwrapping them at the other end.

Juliet Turk – Assistant Curator