Since the Society was founded in 1866, we have been building an unparalleled collection of artefacts pertaining to the evolution of aeronautics. The majority of these reside at the National Aerospace Library in Farnborough, whilst many are on display at No. 4 Hamilton Place. There are nevertheless several hundred items still tucked away in our enormous safe here at headquarters. A team of volunteers led by President Elect Bill Tyack has been dusting and cataloguing these items in preparation for making them more easily accessible to members and to the public.

Bill Tyack unearths a set of bellows for a model airship.

The contents of the safe includes photos, paintings, posters, drawings, statues, recordings, models and much more. We even came across fragments of a Zepplin L16. One of our favourite finds was the image below, showing surprised farm hands as Wilbur Wright flies overhead, accompanied by Capt Paul N. Lucas-Girardville. This framed copy of the photograph was signed by both Wilbur and Orville Wright and given to their good friend Griffith Brewer, RAeS President 1940 – 1942.

Wilbur Wright flying with Capt Paul N. Lucas-Girardville over a hay cart at Pau, France, in 1909.

Many items are instantly recognisable, whereas others will require more research. For other items we would be grateful for the assistance of the wider aviation and aerospace community. Can you, for example, help us identify the signatures on the image of Reims Cathedral below? They represent participants in the first aerial meeting at Reims in August 1900. If you can identify any of the names, we would love to hear from you, either through a comment posted on this blog, or by email to

Autographs of some of those who took part in the aerial meeting at Reims, France, 22-29 August 1909, the first international public flying event.

If you are interested in historical items such as these, why not pop into the National Aerospace Library or No. 4 Hamilton Place next time you are in the area.

Paula Barratt
22 April 2014