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Following a review of the accreditation status of The Helicopter Museum at Weston-super-Mare, a panel of experts appointed by the Arts Council of England has awarded the collection full accreditation status for a further five years.
Accreditation is only granted to museums that can demonstrate that they reach nationally agreed standards, including the highest levels of professionalism and care for their collections. Although the collection was first accredited in 1997, this time it had to go through a new revised and more rigorous process to achieve success.
Chairman of the Helicopter Museum Trustees, Elfan ap Rees, said: “The award is a reflection of the dedication and hard work put in by the staff and volunteers, led by general manager Lee Mills, and is especially pleasing as it recognizes the museum meets the same high standard as leading professional museums across the U.K.”
Accreditation by the Arts Council is just one of a number of awards presented to The Helicopter Museum in recent years, including The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service for its volunteers, an ImechE Engineering Heritage Award, a Transport Trust Red Wheel Transport Heritage Plaque, Federation Aeronautique Internationale Recommended Venue of Education certification, and most recently the Vertical Flight Society Heritage Sites Award.
Unlike many museums that receive funding from government or local authorities, The Helicopter Museum relies entirely on visitor revenue and donations for its day-to-day operation, but accreditation does open the door to occasional grants from organizations, including the Heritage Lottery Fund.
Currently the museum is in the process of constructing a replacement entrance building which, when complete, will house new retail and catering facilities, together with an education/lecture suite and enhanced offices, as well as providing additional display space and an expanded archive and library.
The shell of this extension is expected to be completed this month, with fitting out due to take place during 2019. However the museum currently has insufficient financial reserves to complete this work and is seeking new volunteers and sponsors for this phase of the development.
To further accelerate the project, the museum recently applied for a small scale grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, aimed at developing an introductory display in the extension around the 1931 Hafner R2 helicopter in the collection – the world’s oldest surviving helicopter. The renewed full accreditation status is expected to now strengthen that bid.