‘Nobody in the Air Force had any idea’ : understanding the origins and the early development of the aircraft collection of the Air Force Museum of New Zealand : a research report presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in Museum Studies at Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand

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Massey University
The Air Force Museum of Zealand was opened on 1 April 1987, originally as the Royal New Zealand Air Force Museum. This research report is a historical study of the museum’s early development. It identifies early thwarted attempts by members of the Air Force to establish a historical collection and then traces the decade-long Air Force project that resulted in the first the establishment of a RNZAF Historical Centre and finally the opening of the RNZAF Museum on the fiftieth anniversary of the Air Force’s creation. As the museum project was implemented only in the late 1970s, the RNZAF missed opportunities to ensure the preservation of certain historic aircraft and other relics. As a consequence, museum collecting and exhibition policies (particularly around aircraft) were shaped in large measure by a need to plug perceived gaps in the historical collection, particularly in relation to World War II and the early Cold War periods, with at times less emphasis placed on the provenance of airframes. This was in line with the approaches taken by several air force museums worldwide in this same period. While the late development of the museum required some compromises, the establishment of the RNZAF Museum must nevertheless be recognised as an achievement by dedicated and enthusiastic service members who possessed no prior experience of museum development.