One of the most famous and iconic exhibits in Birmingham – the legendary Spitfire – is to get a new £200,000 showcase.
The public will be asked to help raise funds for a dedicated new exhibition space for the Second World War Spitfire and Hawker Hurricane currently suspended from the ceiling of the Thinktank museum at Millennium Point in Eastside.
The exhibition, which is due to open in January 2015, will provide more background, display more artefacts such as flight suits and engines, and feature the stories of the Birmingham factory workers who made the iconic fighter.
Birmingham Museums Trust is launching a public appeal to raise £10,000 towards the new exhibition space – which will be set up in a 50-metre square area of the museum’s mezzanine level, currently home to the Move It gallery, and a balcony from where the aircraft are best seen.
The aim is to bring the fighter aircraft and their dramatic story to life.
Toby Watley, director of collections at Birmingham Museums said: “The Spitfire is iconic to our city, and a real highlight of Birmingham Museums’ incredible collections.
“In this new gallery, due to open in 2015, visitors will discover the technical innovation of the Spitfire and the real stories from Birmingham people who manufactured and flew these magnificent aircraft.
“It is a great opportunity to ensure that the unique legacy of the Spitfire appreciated by museum visitors of all ages.”
Curators have already located some Spitfire related items in the museum’s own collections – including engines and archives, but they will be asking experts and collectors for further donations.
They also intend to look at the social history of the fighter and Birmingham’s role in its development and manufacture.
The massive Castle Bromwich factory which built the Spitfire in the museum was constructed in 1938. It is estimated that almost 11,700 Supermarine Spitfires were produced there, nearly half of all those built.
Today the legacy of the factory’s legacy is marked with the giant sculpture at Spitfire Island and the naming of roads on the post-war Castle Vale housing estate.
While the Hawker Hurricane has been overshadowed by the Spitfire down the years, it was this cloth-covered aircraft that took the most ‘kills’ in the Battle of Britain.
Out of the total of 2,739 claimed Luftwaffe aircraft shot down during the 1940 campaign, 1,593 were downed by Hurricane pilots. The plane could even out-turn its fearsome German rival, the Messerschmitt BF109.
However, it proved to have less longevity, and while the Spitfire was given many upgrades, and saw out the war as a front line fighter, the Hurricanes were subsequently used in ground attack roles.
Meanwhile, Birmingham Museums Trust has been handed a £250,000 grant towards the construction of a new gallery to showcase the Staffordshire Hoard.
Gallery 32 at the Museum and Art Gallery in Chamberlain Square is being refitted for the permanent Staffordshire Hoard exhibition which is due to open in September 2014.
The Garfield Weston Foundation offered this latest grant. A museum spokeswoman said: “This generous grant will ensure that the gallery is able to go ahead as planned, giving this unique and beautiful treasure a fitting, purpose-built home.”
The Museum, in a joint-initiative with is partner the Potteries Museum in Stoke-on-Trent, has also secured the ownership of further pieces of the Hoard dug up recently in the same field near Hammerwich in Staffordshire. London based jewellers Wartski donated the extra £57,000 needed to buy the sixth century artefacts.
* To donate to the Spitfire Gallery, text FIRE15 followed by the amount you want to donate (£1 - £10) to 70070 or call the development team on 0121 202 2319.