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Bob Gardner 09-07-2012 04:26 PM

A forumite has asked me privately the question below and I include my answer here for fellow members of the forum.

You recently posted this suggestion to a Heine propeller holder:

"Your prop is rare and valuable, valuable in a historical sense. In twenty five years of research I have only seen three other examples. Look after it! Don't do anything to it other than polish it every six months with bees-wax polish. Don't give it to a museum."

I am curious to know why you suggest keeping it out of a museum. I would appreciate any elaboration on that if you have the time to do so.

Museums have long been one of the few locations where large, rare and valuable collections are available for the public to view, often free of charge, and are similarly marvellous places for research.

But they have limitations; they:
can be overburdened with exhibits.
are usually short of space.
are often underfunded.

This can produce circumstances where the raison d'etre of the museum drifts away from the primacy of the artefact; for example where the director is more concerned with the immediate, such as his next exhibition, rather than the long term future of the artefacts.

Within my country, Britain, I am aware of museums which restore aircraft such as Spitfires to as new shiny condition, where the original skins of the wings and elevators etc are discarded, and new ones added made of modern materials finished with modern paint. Interior ribs might be discarded, with little thought that an original rib might be extinct in a century, where researchers will have no original aspect to study. I am aware of interior aircraft surfaces where the original chromate anti-oxidant paint has been overpainted with modern paint with no precautionary comparative tests to see how the modern paint would effect the original.

By contrast, I know of a modern restorer of WW1 and vintage aircraft, who has found original tooling to make parts and who scoured Europe to find someone who could make double stitched fabric of the correct type for 1918 wings.

Museums can also be overwhelmed with bequests and donations from members of the public to an extent where many aretfacts will never be seen in public. The RAF Museum at Hendon for example has 80,000 items in store and only a few thousand on display in their museums.

Wooden propellers are frequently left to museums which often already have several hundred with many examples of some types. If you were to leave your prop to a museum, it would probably spend decades unseen with several identical ones on a shelf in store. But if you sold the prop at auction and gave the proceeds to your museum it would be more useful. And the prop would go to an enthusiast who would hopefully know how important it was to keep it in original condition.

I imply no criticism of museums, other than the observation that the balance between present day immediate needs such as lack of finance and the need to have eye-catching displays of artefacts; and the long term preservation of originality for future generations is often weighted towards the former. Better, I think, to sell your prop to an enthusiast who will care for it and to donate the cash to your musum.

With kind regards,


Bob Gardner 09-08-2012 01:25 PM

And of course there is another aspect. In the first part of the nineteenth century museums were of paramount importance. Collections of art, sculpture, furniture and Greco-Romano artefacts only existed in museums, where they could be seen, and in private collections, where they could not.

The internet has changed that. This forum of ours has become a museum in the sense that hundreds of interesting props have been described here with detailed photographs, which is wonderful for a researcher like me. Every WW1 prop described here is recorded in my database, which I plan to publish in CD form soon, the only one of its kind as far as I know. I'm also just starting the production of my series of books on German WW1 props and I guess that information on 20% of the props I describe comes from this forum.

And museums are also reacting to the internet. The RAF Museum, which I mentioned, and which damages some of its aircraft exhibits by over-restoring them, in my view, has also introduced on their website the marvellous system they call 'Navigator' where you can search for photographs of items in store and the descriptions thereof. They are adding photographs continously and already seem to have several thousand on line.

So, in conclusion, perhaps museums, research and possibly even the education of children and students might all in future only exist in virtual reality. And Dave or a fellow-forumite might consider putting every prop photo which has appeared here into a reference database, plus the 3000 or so photographs from my digital library. Then we might be the biggest prop museum in the world, in the virtual sense!

With kind regards,


adrank888 10-13-2016 03:51 AM

thank you


Bob Gardner 10-20-2016 02:22 PM

Greetings adrank,

Thank you for your gratitude. When I wrote the above I wondered if I would receive scornful replies from outraged museums, but none have come. No reaction at all has come! Please extrapolate. For what are you thanking me for?

Postscript: the thought occurs that your moniker of adrank might indicate you are naval and reached Admiral rank.

Please advise !!

With kind regards,


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