In 2007 Laura Schneider and I had a meeting with Ian Reed, Director of the Yorkshire Air Museum. We suggested to him that an exhibition on the life and work of Nevil Shute would be both an interesting addition for, and relevant to, the Museum. Shute had worked on the R.100 at nearby Howden, and had established Airspeed in York.
Ian was enthusiastic and asked us to write the "Nevil Shute story" in a form suitable for display boards. This we did and in 2008 the boards were produced by the Museum and hung as a temporary exhibit. In the meantime Ian developed our suggestion into a larger exhibition to celebrate the lives and works of other aviation pioneers with a local connection. The planning and designing of this exhibition began in late 2008, greatly helped by a sizeable donation from the Heritage Lottery Fund. We provided relevant original material, photographs and film footage for this exhibition and worked with the designer, Dick Raines, who appreciated our input and our checking of the final proofs for the display boards. The Museum originally hoped to complete the exhibition in time for our York Conference in July last year. However completion was delayed for a number of reasons but we were given a preview during our Conference visit when we saw the newly arrived boards on Nevil Shute and Airspeed in what was very much a construction area.
The exhibition is now finished and on 30th March, Laura, Alison Jenner and I were invited to the official opening. Despite the damp weather the official ribbon was cut and the exhibition declared open, with local press and television there to record the event. Once inside the boards tell the story of Sir George Cayley, Sir Barnes Wallis, Robert Blackburn, Amy Johnson and Nevil Shute Norway. The displays have been designed and produced to the highest standards. The five for Nevil Shute give a comprehensive picture of his life and work both as an engineer and an author, his work on R.100, the formation of Airspeed and his wartime work.
The centrepiece of the exhibition is a large model of R.100. Contemporary film clips run in a continuous loop on a visual display and there are artefacts from R.100 and Barnes Wallis' work on the bouncing bomb. There is even a replica bouncing bomb slung from the ceiling. We, like the other invited guests, were all most impressed with the design, quality and layout of the exhibition and are delighted to have played a part in contributing to its inception and execution.