A couple of weeks ago, the REME Museum’s Assistant Curator, Laura, and Museum Assistant, Lucy, embarked on the Regimental Curators’ Course hosted by the National Army Museum (NAM) in London.

This was an exciting trip for us both. With the regulations of the past eighteen months meaning limited travel and predominantly online training opportunities, this training course provided an adventure as well as a chance to learn from our colleagues in the military museum sector.

Exterior of the NAM building. Banners depict the exhibitions currently on display

The exterior of the NAM in Chelsea, London.

The course itself met and exceeded our expectations. We heard from leading museum professionals in military museums about their roles and best museum practice. Much of what was said has resonated with us and we hope to improve on our practice at the REME Museum to ensure all of our collections are preserved to tell the Corps’ story for future generations. Though technically outside of our immediate responsibilities, we particularly enjoyed the learning and education session, as we got to make our own helmet in a taster of a schools education activity!

Helmet made of a plastic cup covered in red, yellow and blue material and topped with a blue pom pom

We couldn’t resist giving our helmet a REME theme (definitely for ceremonial use rather than operational).

As part of the week, we attended the Army Museums Ogilby Trust (AMOT) Annual Conference, joining from the NAM London hub as part of their hybrid event structure. Neither of us had ever attended the conference previously, so it was a whole new experience. It was great to hear the latest updates from the Trust, as well as learn some useful insights into how we can make our Museum more accessible and more environmentally sustainable. These are two aims we feel are well aligned with both the Museum’s values and our own, so we will be looking for new ways to incorporate some of the ideas highlighted within our work.

While we were at the NAM, we used some of our free time to take a look at the Foe to Friend: The British Army in Germany since 1945 Exhibition which is currently on display. There, we were able to see the REME cap badge loaned to the NAM for the exhibition, which was cast from the aluminium crankcase of a Volkswagen car in the Wolfsburg factory, some time after 1947.

REME crankshaft cap badge in a display case in front of a photograph of the Wolfsburg VW factory

The crankshaft cap badge on display in the NAM Foe to Friend Exhibition. Photographs may be subject to copyright.

One of our favourite parts of the week was visiting other Regimental museums in the area. This included the Fusilier Museum London, located inside the Tower of London, and the Household Cavalry Museum at Horse Guards.

Of the Household Cavalry Museum, Lucy said:

“It was amazing to see how much can be accomplished in such a small museum with various unavoidable limitations. I have never been to Horse Guards before, let alone the Museum, and I was astonished at how well they have captured the life and duties of the Regiment, especially being able to see the Guardsmen looking after their horses in the stables.”

Photo of horses and household cavalry at Horse Guards Parade. Two horses and guards up close, others in background.

We were able to witness the Guards changeover at Horse Guards Parade during our visit.

Of course, we also took the opportunity to view some of the typical tourist sights London has to offer. On our walks from the Underground station to the NAM, we were able to get a lovely view of the Royal Hospital Chelsea, home of the Chelsea Pensioners. Some of our other sights included Buckingham Palace, though we’re not sure we managed to catch any REME soldiers on Queen's Guard, the Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser Exhibition at the V&A Museum, and of course many of the sights the River Thames boasts near Tower Hill. With so much culture around it was impossible not to immerse ourselves!

Photo of the Royal Hospital Chelsea. Sign reads Royal Hospital Chelsea. Photo is of the chapel

Not a bad sight on the daily commute, even if it was only for a week!

HMS Belfast on the River Thames in front of the Shard

A rather peaceful view of HMS Belfast on the River Thames at 9am on a Friday morning.

We will take a lot away from this week; new friendships, inspiration and passion for the work we do. Anyone who works in a museum understands the issues the sector faces. Anyone who works in a military museum further understands the pride we have for our Corps and how we must instil this in all we do. This week has shown us that all of this can be used to our advantage if we all work together. All we can say is… watch this space!

This article is written with thanks to the National Army Museum for hosting the training course and AMOT Annual Conference live stream. We also thank the Association of Independent Museums (AIM), whose financial support was extremely helpful in enabling us to attend the course.