Lost Airfields Exhibition at Oxfordshire Museum

This morning we went to the Oxfordshire Museum in Woodstock, to see the Lost Airfields photography exhibition that I’d read about on Twitter. The photographer, Mark McArthur-Christie, has written about the subject on his blog, from which the photo below is taken.

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The exhibition is dedicated to Oxfordshire’s abandoned airfields, including some that played an important role in the Second World War. There are tonnes of them dotted about the countryside, built and used during the war and then forgotten about, and you would have no idea about most of them until you spot them from the air, as we often do. While they are often quite easy to spot from the air, they’re a lot harder to notice on the ground, so it was nice to get this perspective in this series of evocative images. The photographer has discovered many of these airfields on his trusty motorbike, seen above. I particularly liked the photos of the traces that still exist of the airfields in their heyday – an old petrol pump, and original painted signs. It’s tantalising that these glimpses of wartime Britain still exist, gradually fading away.

In the interests of a balanced review I’ll say a few words on what would have made it even better – just a few things they could bear in mind if the exhibition goes on tour… It was a shame that the exhibition was hidden away out the back of the museum, in a garden building – it took us ages to find it, and we looked around the whole museum before eventually chancing upon it right at the back of said building (we probably wouldn’t have found it, had we not specifically been looking for it)! I was surprised that the photos were printed on what seemed to be normal printer paper and pinned to the wall with pins – they would have had more impact, I felt, had they been printed on a more impressive material such as canvas. Finally, it would have put them more into context to have seen maps and aerial views for each of the airfields; we knew of some of them from having flown over them, but we had no idea where the rest were, and nor would most people I think, so it would have been nice to have had something to relate them to.

It’s definitely worth going to see if you’re in that neck of the woods, perhaps combining with a visit to Blenheim Palace, and the rest of the museum is interesting too – a lot better than most small local museums. There’s even a whole room dedicated to Roman finds from the area. The museum is open from Tuesday to Saturday from 10am – 5pm, and Sundays from 2-5pm. Admission is free (bonus!) and the airfields exhibition is on until 15 September.

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