Science and Industry Museum to close its Air and Space Hall - Museums Association

Science and Industry Museum to close its Air and Space Hall

Majority of displayed aviation items will return to RAF Museum
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Rebecca Atkinson
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Exterior view of the Avro Shackleton A.E.W.2 reconnaissance aircraft,  Military Service No. WR 960, made by A. V. Roe & Co. Ltd, Woodford, 1954 on display in the Air and Space gallery.
Exterior view of the Avro Shackleton A.E.W.2 reconnaissance aircraft, Military Service No. WR 960, made by A. V. Roe & Co. Ltd, Woodford, 1954 on display in the Air and Space gallery. Science Museum Group

The Science and Industry Museum in Manchester has announced that it is to permanently close its Air and Space Hall and return the majority of aviation items on display to the RAF Museum in London.

The museum will vacate the lease of the historic Lower Campfield market hall building where the displays are currently housed. The hall is currently closed because it requires substantial repairs and investment.

“As a charity we have invested significant resource to maintain and repair the Air and Space Hall since we have taken on its stewardship, however historic buildings do have a complexity of issues that date back many decades,” said Sally Macdonald, the director of the Science and Industry Museum.

“The repair and investment work required to bring this beautiful building back to life is substantial, the space presents real challenges in the sustainable display of historic objects and ultimately, it is the responsible thing to now pass the building back to Manchester City Council, ready for its next chapter.”

The Air and Space Hall pictured in 2006

Most of the aviation collection displayed in the hall was on loan from the RAF Museum in London and will be returned. Some items will move to other museums, such as the Avro 707A and English Electric P1A, which will be rehomed at Boscombe Down Aviation Collection.

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The Avro 504K will find a new home at the Stow Maries Great War Aerodrome in Essex, and the Yokosuka Ohka II will travel to the Pima Air & Space Museum in Arizona, US. Many aircraft will also return to the Aeroplane Collection at nearby Ellesmere Port.   

“We are delighted to be rehoming these aircraft and sharing them with new audiences to enjoy and connect with their stories,” said Maggie Appleton, chief executive officer of the RAF Museum.

“Having jewels from our collection on display in different parts of the country, and indeed the world, means that this story is more accessible and available.”

The Science and Industry Museum recently completed a £5m new special exhibitions gallery and is investing £11.3m in its Power Hall, which is due to reopen in 2023.

It is also undertaking £3m of repairs to its 1830 station and warehouse.

Richard Leese, the leader of Manchester City Council, said it is working with Allied London to develop proposed to refurbish the old market building.

The hall first opened in 1983 as the Air and Space Museum. It was taken over by the North Western Museum of Science and Industry two years later, before transferring to the Science Museum Group in 2012.

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