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American air museums airframe disposals trend?

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  • Stirling
    Rank 5 Registered User
    • Mar 2011
    • 20

    American air museums airframe disposals trend?

    Noticed a few airframes from museum collections popping up for sale in America. Now having watched Kermit Weeks youtube on his visit to the CAF Midland Texas museum with his view to purchasing their Polikarpov I-16 , towards the end he cites issues around reaching out to the public both at the CAF Midland museum as well as his own Fantasy of Flight... Do we anticipate this to be a growing issue in America with resultant increased opportunities for airframe sales in the future? How many of these museums need the foot fall to survive or will they just carry on irrespective? It appears the same issues causing UK museum modernisation could drive same in America or result in a thinning out of collections.
  • J Boyle
    With malice towards none
    • Oct 2004
    • 9755

    #2
    Museums needing to survive by admissions (not subsidized by a wealthy benefactor, collection or government) are likely to have a hard time of it.

    Weeks had a first rate attraction in one of the world's greatest tourist destinations, and if he couldn't make a commercial go of it...

    Shrinking budgets will effect government collections as well. I've seen some USAF based shedding some of their static aircraft, and like homeless pets, many of the aircraft face bleak future if the NMUSAF doesn't need or have another home for the aircraft.

    I've also noticed some auto museums closing due to attendance.
    It would be easy to say that young people aren't interested in old airplanes and autos, after all they may have trouble relating to bits of metal, but I'm sure there is more to it than that.




    ​​
    There are two sides to every story. The truth is usually somewhere between the two.

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    • Paul F
      Retired Lawnmower Racer
      • May 2005
      • 1107

      #3
      Fantasy of Flight was/is great (visited in 2005 and 2007, and even spoke to KW on the second visit), but Polk City was a bit off the beaten track unless you had your own wheels, and I suspect many (non-US) tourists visiting Orlando and Tampa may well travel there on package deals centred on the Disney parks etc, and thus not have their own transport, so access to somewhere an hour or so from Disney-central was not the easiest. I don't recall seeing too many obvious adverts for FofF at that time either, so I suspect many visitors to Orlando/Kissimmee didn't even know FofF existed? Also, while FofF was of great interest to the enthusiast, for most tourists the 'family' attractions in Orlando or Tampa would probably be higher on list of priorities while on holiday. In our case the family just had to 'grin and bear it' for a day while I indulged my hobby, given I had to 'enjoy' the pleasures of that 'Mouse' for a day or two.

      I think those of us of a certain age also have to realise that 'flying' is now a part of everyday life for most families (even if only for their annual holiday), so aeroplanes and flight are simply part of life and hold less 'magic' than they did for us or our parents. Also, WW2 is now two generations ago (if not three) in most families, so there is less of a tangible 'family link' to WW2 history, meaning that fewer folk will visit to see the 'old planes that Dad/Grandad flew in' than there was say 20 years ago, so the demographic of likely visitors is probably shifting away from 'casual interest' more towards 'enthusiast'.

      KW did have a fair few 'interactive' (and/or computer screen-type) exhibits in 2005/2007, plus a few 'walk through' airframes (such as his B17), so he seemed to be doing all the right things to attract visitors, yet the place was very quiet both times I was there, so perhaps it came as no big surprise when he closed it (at least in the form I saw).

      We are now seeing the second generation who grew up with 'the net', with instant access to pictures and stories from history, and I fear many youngsters now feel that they can 'experience' history on line whenever they want, and see no reason to visit static lumps of metal that sit in drafty hangars on out of the way airfields, when they can watch video clips of the 'planes in action, and read all about them form the comfort of their armchair/bedroom/study.

      Has anyone looked at the demographic of airshow audiences - I suspect they too are "ageing" faster than the population as a whole. I sense I see fewer 'young adults' in airshow crowds today than I used to. I know the populations of UK (if not other western countries) are living longer than ever before, so population demographic is shifting towards us 'grey hairs' , but even allowing for that shift I fear fewer youngsters attend airshows or museums.


      As J Boyle says above, it's not just aviation related attractions that seem to be suffering in this way, cars, buses, trains, industrial heritage museums all seem less attractive to the internet/'computer screen' generation than they were to our generation.

      Comment

      • TEXANTOMCAT
        Rank 5 Registered User
        • Mar 2004
        • 4632

        #4
        I think to be fair in regard to the auto museums - many seemed to be owned by gentlemen of a certain age, when their collection got too large (or for tax purposes?) they decided to open a museum to show off their wares. With that generation passing away, often the kids don't want to be faffed with Dad's old cars - maybe keep a couple but not run a museum and the collections are sold off to get the inheritance. This is often shown on Chasing Classic Cars on Discovery. The tax rules in the states are vastly different to UK ones and there can be a large benefit to establishing a 'not for profit' type organisation to manage (but often not own) collections. Perhaps also cultural/historical philanthropy is on the wane. Previous generations 'made' things or provided services tied to 'things' like trucking companies or building firms or small airlines. Today's young multimillionaires may be dot.com and spend their cash on different things - maybe an art collection or building a wing at a hospital but not say vehicles... I suspect too that the number of large donations to Museums will be falling too -its just that later generations aren't as interested in cars/planes from their youth or as the WW2 generation were in their service.

        There doesnt seem to be much philanthropy in the UK aviation sector as there used to be with a couple of exceptions, for example the gift of the MK1 Spit to IWM or Sea Vixen to the Fly Navy Heritage Trust. .....perhaps the last big act was Mike Collett gifting several C-47s and elements of the ex Classic Fleet to trusts?

        TT
        Our Beech 18 & T-6@www.beechrestorations.com
        Visit Sywell Aviation Museum @
        www.sywellaerodrome.co.uk/museum.php
        Sywell Airshow 17.8.2014

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        • Mark_pilkington
          Rank 9999 Registered User
          • Jun 2004
          • 1791

          #5
          I grew up last century when WW2 and John Wayne was our TV every Saturday as the afternoon movie, and when movies such as "Magnificent Men and their Flying Machines", "Battle of Britain" and "Tora Tora Tora" brought our airfix models to life in our imaginations and play, - our fathers and others had been in WW2, and hence many of us became aviation enthusiasts.


          But today my children, - now grown up adults, don't share my hobbies, have no interest in Airshows or Aircraft Museums, and do live through an online access and view of the world, despite the difference between the virtual and real world experiences.

          The same is happening with Steam Engines and Railway museums, - the kids no longer huddle over the tracks as "train-spotters" to take down railway plate numbers of diesel engines like earlier generations did with Steam Engines, and to be fair the kids are not "plane-spotters" riding their bikes out to the airports either.

          Does it mean all museums are destined to fail and close? - no not necessarily, - the volunteer museum I am involved in, continues each year to increase its membership and visitor numbers, by offering cockpit entries in normal visits, and special cockpit entry days that attract lots of young families for the day.

          But those open air museums on US Bases will eventually have to contemplate the future of their large collections that can only rely on the base commander or volunteers to continue manning the workload, even if the visitations drop off.

          There are a lot of big, and historic types sitting in those US Base museums, and the costs to dismantle and relocate to them to other bases will eventually leave some to face the scrappers, and the USAFM probably wont want to "keep them all".(we are already seeing that happen)

          Unfortunately they will likely be beyond airworthy restoration and so it will be up to volunteer museums or regional collections to try and rescue some of them, but they will have to go under cover to really save them, and that's extra cost above dismantling, transporting, re-assembling and repairing/restoring.



          Aviation Museums with Static Displays have to try to "bring them alive" as much as possible, - give access to touch and climb in at least some of the exhibits to allow tactile experiences for the visitors, if its not FUN they wont come again.


          That museum I am involved in, largely survives on its gate takings and shop sales, - membership fees don't go far (and you don't want to price your volunteers out of being a member), and government funding, corporate sponsorship and private donations are for special purposes and do not make up much of the annual turnover.

          However it is located in the middle suburbs of a 3 Million person Capital City, it would struggle to do what it does in a regional city or small country town.

          But I agree with the comments above
          t's not just aviation related attractions that seem to be suffering in this way, cars, buses, trains, industrial heritage museums all seem less attractive to the internet/'computer screen' generation than they were to our generation.


          regards

          Mark Pilkington



          "Never has a Country so Big!, owed so Much!, to those who Flew!"

          Comment

          • TEXANTOMCAT
            Rank 5 Registered User
            • Mar 2004
            • 4632

            #6
            I agree with Mark - as a fellow Museum volunteer- whilst we mainly love museums of 'stuff' our Museum has been transformed by use of an interactive element - which is a posh way of saying we chuck kids into a cockpit - they love it, parents love it= repeat business and donations in the pot. What does this mean - education is still there but it has now, to go hand in hand with 'entertainment'

            TT
            Our Beech 18 & T-6@www.beechrestorations.com
            Visit Sywell Aviation Museum @
            www.sywellaerodrome.co.uk/museum.php
            Sywell Airshow 17.8.2014

            Comment

            • David Burke
              Rank 5 Registered User
              • Jan 2000
              • 10025

              #7
              The days when putting some aircraft in a field and expecting the visiting public to be delighted by it are rapidly coming to an end! In the UK there needs to be far more emphasis put on community involvement - less pointless duplication of exhibits and a greater willingness for museums to trade items for the greater good.
              Last edited by David Burke; 19th June 2019, 14:58.

              Comment

              • Stirling
                Rank 5 Registered User
                • Mar 2011
                • 20

                #8
                The best interactivity ive come across has been across the channel the Dutch airforce museum Soesterberg had a headset proximity system that talked you through key exhibits, provided veteran accounts, authentic engine run ups really brought to life even their 100% replica airframes. The St Mere Eglise airborne museum has a superb walk through C47 experience with sound and vibration and as you "jump" out the rear door a wind generator blasts you as you look down at a large floor diorama of the drop zone at night.

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