Aerospace Bristol will reunite the heritage from a number of important collections to tell not only the stories of design, engineering innovation and achievement, but also the social history of the people who worked in the aerospace industry and the communities which have grown up around it. The object collection contains over 8,000 artefacts (many ‘at risk’) Bristol-built aircraft including Concorde 216, Bristol Scout, Bristol Fighter and a Blenheim IV (WWII Bristol Bolingbroke bomber, under restoration), as well as many scaled models.
The historic site is the starting point for the interpretation. Stepping over the Aerospace Bristol threshold, the visitor will experience a sense of place and history – of ‘being there' at the heart of the Filton story. The narrative has been organised according to 7 ‘eras’ with a separate hangar that celebrates the story of Concorde and its local connection.
ERA ONE: Pioneers 1903 - 1914 first flights
Era 1 opens with a Bristol tram pulled by two model horses beneath footage of a flight of an early Bristol boxkite flying over the downs above the Avon Gorge. This pairing evokes the transition from tram manufacturer to aerospace company that marks the start of BAC. The thousands of local people who turned out for this first boxkite flight hint at the crowds of Bristolians who would later assemble to watch Concorde fly home almost a century later.
Interactive exhibits and touch screen archive browsers create a multi- sensory introduction to the Bristol aerospace story. Behind the tram and on the way to Era Two, interactive exhibits reveal the principles of flight using easily graspable explanations.
ERA TWO: First World War c.1914 - 1918
Era 2 reveals the impact of World War One on Filton and the role of aircraft in the war. Two aeroplanes dominate the space – a Fighter and a Scout. Large-scale graphics behind them evoke the transformation of Filton and its workforce with the advent of war. Images show women working in the factories, suggest increased production and give a taste of the tasks undertaken by pilots over the trenches and further afield.
ERA THREE: The Growth of Flight 1918 - 1939
Era 3 represents a time of major innovation in aircraft design as aeroplanes go from being made of wood and cloth to metal, and develop from biplanes to monoplanes. Flight becomes more recognisable to our contemporary eyes. With the end of World War One, demand for aircraft drops, and the business diversifies. A replica Bristol ‘Babe’ and lorry open the Era and represent the BAC’s changing output at the time. A backdrop of graphics sets the glamorous tone of the age and provides a unifying structure for the Era. Movie posters, adverts, magazine covers demonstrate the fascination with flight and that aircraft innovations and daring aviators made front-page news.
A sweep of model aircraft representing the different aeroplanes that used the Jupiter fly overhead, casting aircraft- shaped shadows on the floor.
ERA FOUR: World War Two c.1939 - 1945
As visitors move further into Era 4 they step into an evocative environment, reminiscent of a World War Two drawing office and factory. This area presents evidence of the impact of World War Two on BAC, on Filton and on the lives of its employees. The interactive Dispersal Map shows where Filton factory sites have moved to escape the bombs. Graphics-based maps show that Filton-built aircraft and engines were used the world over, in every theatre of war, and on both sides. 1940s-style drawing boards and workbenches house showcases and interactivity draws visitors into the detail of the wartime world.
ERA FIVE: Bigger, Faster, Further 1945 - 1960
Diversity characterises the output of Era 5, captured here by a diverse range of objects and the central interactive model of the entire site. The seamless surface of the central site model combines projection, maps and areas in relief to transport visitors to the self-sufficient world that was 1950s Filton. Interactivity invites visitors to explore the lives of the employees and apprentices that peopled it. Above the model a suspended rectangular canopy has a slightly reflective surface that reflects architecture and objects. Inside, it carries imagery from the magazine published at the time, the Review, as well as archive photographs of the factories, offices, canteens, welfare association and social clubs.
One of the era’s central projects, the huge Brabazon airliner, is represented here by its wheels and name plate. Alongside it is the Britannia fuselage. The two objects represent the growing importance of passenger aircraft to aviation industry and difficulties inherent in responding to the market as technology changed.
ERA SIX: Ocean Floor to Outer Space 1960 - 1981
Era 6 sees Bristol stepping into the space age. It leads the way in supersonic travel and contributes the birth of technologies that influence our lives today.
Three objects mark the transition into this era: a satellite, a missile and model of a supersonic aircraft. They represent important strands of BAC’s work and form a gateway that visitors pass through to enter Era 6. A high impact curved graphic leads visitors around the space. The wall integrates objects, graphics and screens. Its content moves from outer space to the seabed and on to introduce supersonic speed. The display embraces the sophisticated technologies explored in Filton at the time. The ‘wall’ allows for glimpses through to the historic building, reinforcing the sense of place.
ERA SEVEN: Working Across the World 1982 – Today
In Era 7 the exhibits reveal the secrets of the airliners that criss-cross our skies. Interactivity, talking heads and objects give visitors a taste of what it’s like to work in the aerospace industry today.
Visitors emerge from the fuselage to discover a section of A320 wing extending overhead. Airliner models interactives and contemporary Filton aerospace employees are revealed extending across the far wall.
An interactive table crowned with an ‘icon’ A300 model draws visitors to the centre of the Era. There, they learn about this iconic aircraft and working in the aerospace industry today. The A300 was a major breakthrough as it could fly with only two crew - a pilot and an co-pilot. No longer needing a flight engineer made it cheaper to fly.
The Concorde hangar
Aerospace Bristol's Concorde exhibition is a combined audio-visual show and object display that captures the passion and affection that Concorde inspires. Like a piece of ‘promenade theatre’, the show draws people around the 200m2 space, conveying the story in manageable sections and directly relating the objects to the people who used, made or designed them.