First Flight into a World of Work – Work Experience Students at Royal Pavilion & Museums

The coronavirus epidemic has meant that it has not been possible for Royal Pavilion & Museums to offer school work experience placements this year. However, it is an opportunity to look back at some of the work of Year 10 pupils from Longhill High School and Patcham High School in June and July 2019.

Royal Pavilion & Museums is committed to supporting young people’s learning. One of the many ways this is achieved is by offering a few young people from Brighton & Hove schools the opportunity to undertake work experience at its museums.

Students started the week shadowing the front of house team across the Royal Pavilion Estate. Working on the floor of the Royal Pavilion and Brighton Museum & Art Gallery, this important role gives a hands-on insight into customer service. Tasks involve welcoming visitors, answering queries and helping with security measures that protect the public, staff, buildings and collections.

Part of the working week was spent with myself giving an overview of the varied work of collections staff. One of the activities the Longhill and Patcham pupils were tasked with was cataloguing, digitising and rehousing a collection of almost 100 aviation-related postcards. The pupils received training in object handling, object marking, using the museum’s collections management system and scanning equipment. This work took place in Brighton Museum’s MuseumLab and timed with other public engagement activities including a Brighton-Past Coffee Morning and our weekly ‘Behind the Scenes’ sessions.

Results of their efforts have been processed and are now available to view online via the museum’s Digital Media Bank. A number of the postcards highlight the significant role Shoreham Aerodrome played in the history of early aviation in Britain before the First World War. It was one of the first flying fields in the country and is the only one still operating as a public licenced airport. The collection also includes the faces of some of the pioneering aviators, a few of whom lost their lives during the war serving in the Royal Flying Corps/Royal Air Force.

Releasing these images times with the 110th anniversary of the first powdered aircraft flight in Sussex. In May 1910, a former pupil of Lancing College, Harold Piffard, began testing a 40 HP biplane that he had designed and built in London. Remembering an expanse of flat fields to the south of the College on the western bank of the River Adur, Harold chose one of the fields to test his aircraft. A red flag would be hoisted to warn local residents whenever tests were to be carried out. Richard Almond writing in Issue 14 of Sussex Industrial History (1984) states that the landlord of the nearby Sussex Pad bet a crate of champagne that the machine would not fly the length of the field. On 10 July 1910 after days of waiting for suitable weather, Harold made a successful flight, winning the wager and making history.

Dan Robertson – Curator of Local History & Archaeology

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