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Old 09-07-2012, 04:26 PM   #1
Bob Gardner
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Join Date: Jan 2006
Location: The North of England
Posts: 1,636

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
Author; WW1 British Propellers, WWI German Propellers

Last edited by Bob Gardner; 09-10-2012 at 04:12 AM.
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