The Aviation and Aerospace Archives Initiative

Our sister network, the Aviation and Aerospace Archives Initiative, has recently published an online Guide to the Archives of UK Aircraft Manufacturers

Ever wondered where you can find the early minutes of Bristol Aeroplane Co or Hawker Aircraft Ltd, the technical reports issued by the Royal Aircraft Establishment or manuals relating to interwar Gloster aircraft? Over the years the documentary evidence of our aero history has been scattered amongst a large number of archives, libraries, museums, societies and individuals and it can be tricky to discover where particular material is held and how it can be accessed.

To help the aero history community to find some of the amazing archive collections being preserved around the nation, the Aviation and Aerospace Archives Initiative (AAAI) has just launched a new online guide to the surviving historical records of UK aircraft manufacturing businesses. The guide covers not only household names like the British Aircraft Corporation, but also lesser-known concerns like the Airship Guarantee Co or firms such as Phoenix Dynamo Manufacturing Co which only built aircraft in wartime. Institutions, like the Royal Aeronautical Society and Aeronautical Research Council, which represented the collective interests of aircraft manufacturers and their employees or promoted aeronautical research are also included.

The guide is alphabetically arranged by company name and includes a brief history of each aircraft manufacturer along with a chronological list of its most significant aircraft and a summary of the surviving archives reported to the Initiative to date. Users should note that the guide covers companies that built whole aircraft (lighter than air and rotary as well as fixed-wing aircraft), rather than manufacturers of aircraft parts or sub-assemblies only. A separate section lists the archives of related institutions

The new archive guide can be found on the AAAI website https://www.aviationarchives.uk/page-5035109.html. It is accompanied by a short history of UK aircraft manufacturing and a useful guide to related sources held by The National Archives.

The guide currently features entries on the archives of over 90 companies and organisations, but is far from complete. Many holders of aircraft manufacturer archives are not yet included and the AAAI’s aim is to extend and improve the existing entries and to add new ones over the next year or so through a process co-creation with custodians and users of aviation archives. So, if you care for, or are aware of, archives that should be covered and don’t seem to appear in the first edition of the guide please do get in touch with the AAAI. Information on how to contribute is available on the web pages accompanying the guide.

The guide has been compiled by Alison Turton, Business Archives Council, as a core element of the work of the AAAI which was formed in late 2018 to support all those who look after archival records relating to the history of flight, and related industries and technologies, and to promote access to them.

For more information about the AAAI and its activities, visit its website.

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