The Aviation and Aerospace Archives Initiative
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Latest general meeting of the AAAI

RAF Museum, Hendon, 7 January 2020

Present: Tim Powell (The National Archives (TNA) Chair), Lucy Bonner (IMechE), Peter Davison (Aviation Heritage UK), Malcolm Fillmore (Air Britain Trust), Andrew Lewis (Brooklands Museum), Barry Guess (BAE Systems), Nina Hadaway (RAF Museum), Gary Haines (RAF Museum), Anne Locker (IET), Howard Mason (BAE Systems), Steve Mitchell (Air Britain Trust), Tony Pilmer (National Aerospace Library and Royal Aeronautical Society), Mike Rogers (TNA), Philippa Turner (TNA), Alison Turton (Business Archives Council).

Apologies: Geoff Russell (Leonardo/Helicopter Museum), Louise Clarke (Aerospace Bristol), Chris Bartlett (Rochester Avionics).

1.     Notes from Meeting of 16th September and Matters Arising

1.1 Following introductions, TPo announced that the website had now been updated and redesigned. Its address is www.aviationarchives.uk. No members of the initiative had proposed alternative names for the initiative between the last meeting and this.

1.2 PD shared results of his survey sent out to Aviation Heritage UK members about their archives. These results were anonymous, and only a small number responded. However, of those that did respond, the results suggested that members thought that what would make the most difference to improve their archives would be more money and volunteers; followed by storage facilities, guidance, and advice on conservation. The majority said their archives were safe, and only a few said they gave uncontrolled access to them. Location of material was a mixture of unsecure and onsite, in members’ homes, and secure onsite. The majority used typed index cards as finding aids; some information was computerised, and some handwritten; members’ recall was also relied upon. The majority of material was salvaged, with some bought via grants, on long-term loan, or given by the community. The majority of material constituted photographs, with memorabilia the second most predominant. BG asked if volume of material was asked about; PD suggested that respondents could be asked to send in details of this at a later date. TPi suggested that this information was a useful start, and more information could be gained at the conference and through ensuing work.

1.3 There was a brief discussion about the possible name of the initiative. Use of the word ‘National’ was suggested by PD as being potentially off-putting. HM noted that many manufacturers are now owned by foreign companies, and therefore ‘National’ would potentially also inhibit the links that the initiative would need to build across national borders.

2.     Conference

2.1 TPi announced that the conference programme was being finalised, and speakers have been confirmed. Some timings still need to be refined depending on the speakers’ topics; and some titles and summaries of talks need to be sought.

2.2 PD suggested circulating a list of attendees before the date so that members of the initiative could be prepared for networking on the day. TPi suggested this was possible.

2.3 PD volunteered to print badges. TPo and PT confirmed TNA could provide plastic holders and would confirm sizes.

2.4 TPi confirmed those signing up were being asked if they would like to be on the mailing list. He also confirmed that Hampshire Archives would be playing their video of digitised films relating to aircraft production during lunch.

2.5 All those present were asked to use their contacts to continue to encourage  bookings. PT asked whether members present should also book and it was confirmed they should.

2.6 There was discussion of whether the conference should be recorded either on video or audio only. AL and HM confirmed that they had the equipment for audio recording of the talks, and that with the requisite confirmation of assent by speakers (which TPi noted could go out with other information to the speakers), this would not be too difficult a task. BG suggested a YouTube channel would be useful as a platform to disseminate the talks. PT noted that if speakers use PowerPoint presentations, they could be asked if they would be willing to share them, although copyright issues would need to be investigated.

2.7 PT asked whether there would be a chair and a time-keeper during the sessions, and whether anyone would be tweeting about the conference on the day. She volunteered to tweet. TPo agreed that a chair, or one for each session, plus someone time-keeping, would potentially be appropriate and that it would be helpful to discuss this amongst the conference sub-committee.

3.     Guidance

3.1 MR gave an update on the work of the documentation sub-committee: the first draft’s main sections and introduction were now complete, and it runs to 47 pages. He would now be moving on to refining it and expected it to be ready to be online in time for the conference. He noted that the definitions list was large due to the need to explain many professional and specialist terms clearly.

3.2 PD suggested that a presentation on the guidance, showing it to attendees, would be helpful. AL noted it would be an excellent segue into his talk. HM also suggested this kind of introduction, to the survey and the guidance, would be helpful to emphasise aims to the audience.

4.     Survey

4.1 Regarding the survey sub-committee, AT reported that she and NH had been developing guidance for participants, and had been piloting this with friendly parties. They now have some examples to show at the conference, and there would be consolidation of this after feedback at the conference. TPi and SM have helped expand the spreadsheet of past and present aircraft manufacturers; it was confirmed this list had already been prioritised regarding the very small manufacturers.  

4.2 AL asked if the survey would broaden to look at systems manufacturers (radar, navigation systems, for example). TPo suggested this was open for discussion as the survey developed, and thanked AT and NH for their work.

5.     Future of Initiative

5.1 Further discussion of the future of the initiative began with TPo emphasising that there needs to be sufficient ownership of the group outside The National Archives to make it sustainable. Relevant questions include those relating to the name, presentation, and branding for the group, what membership might look like (formal or informal?), and whether the group should have bank accounts.

5.2 PD suggested a model of buying a small amount of time from someone at another organisation/another employer, who could regularly do administration, website maintenance etc. SM suggested a funding stream would be necessary to have this.

5.3 AL suggested waiting until this conference has happened and how it is received, as there is no point in formalising if there is little/no interest in a formal group.

5.4 BG suggested ‘association’ as an alternative term to ‘initiative’: it is used widely in organisations relating to motorsport.

5.5 PD wondered, as an aside, if there were links with the Light Aircraft Association. TPo said he would explore.

5.6 TPo suggested keeping ‘initiative’ best for now: it achieves maximum inclusiveness and retains the informality that has worked well to date.

5.7 NH asked if there was a tick box for people to say they are interested in hearing more about the AAAI when booking for the conference. TPi said he would double-check.

5.8 TPo asked whether the JISCMAIL list that had been begun should be launched as an AAAI-wide email list at the conference, open to all, or should it stay as a closed group for those steering the initiative?  He favoured the former. Currently, the ‘Contact Us’ section on the website goes to TPo and TPi.

5.9 HM and BG noted JISCMAIL and similar lists are problematic for some where IT security is configured to block such communication methods.  TPo suggested a restricted area for members of this group and where the notes from meetings could be added might be a good way forward.

6.     A.O.B.

6.1 No other business was brought up, and the meeting ended at 15:50. TPo thanked all those attending for contributing so positively and NH and GH for hosting the meeting.

The date of the next meeting was not agreed, but the conference will be on 12th February 2020