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hazel crozier

Royal Air Force College Cranwell is overtly grand in both appearance and reputation. Members of the Royal Family, Prime Ministers and even Lawrence of Arabia have all graced the corridors. But the work that goes on behind the scenes to uncover and preserve priceless artefacts and heritage is equally as spectacular. Curator Hazel Crozier showed Alison Sandilands around
Words: Alison Sandilands

Conserving the treasures of Cranwell

earing special white gloves, Hazel carefully leafed through an original copy of Sir Walter Raleighs History of the World. At 400 years old, it is looking rather worn and it is her job to minimise any further decay. We are in the College Library a real treasure trove of history containing more than 60,000 books, reports and documents. The smell of old books fills the air and the surroundings do not look to have changed much since the 1930s, when the College Hall first opened. This space is still a working library and the subtle studying sounds of whispering and pages turning can be heard. Hazel is the first curator ever to have been taken on at the College and has spent the last two years periodically going through numerous photographs and documents in order to re-catalogue them in a more preservation-sound manner. On a table in a quiet corner of the library, she has laid out some of the most treasured literary works and interesting documents. This includes a copy of TE Lawrences The Seven Pillars of Wisdom. The author, famously known as Lawrence of Arabia, served at RAF Cranwell as an aircraft mechanic from 1925-26 under the pseudonym Aircraftman Shaw. This edition is particularly special because the pages have been annotated with the handwriting of the author himself. In tribute to TE Lawrence, the north room of the library is called the Lawrence Room and features wartime letters and reports. There are letters from Montgomery and Mountbatten and combat reports from the World Wars describing engagements with the enemy in vivid detail. The ends of bookcases in the main reading room feature drawings depicting a flying accident in March 1942, where a Whitley bomber crashed into the College killing the three crew members and badly damaging the building. A plate taken from the aircrafts engines is also on display here. A conservation project currently being worked on

CounTY pEopLE

An oil pAinting by tim Jenkins is A recent Addition to the collection

is the re-cataloguing of negatives from courses and visits to the Technical College, RAF Henlow, from 1958-1973. Hazel explained how some of these images were damaged beyond repair after being poorly stored for many decades. She said: Envelopes and boxes of this era would have been very acidic, causing damage to the artefacts because they deteriorate quicker, as the acid eats into them. In the past these negatives were stored so tightly that many of the glass negatives have broken and many of the acetate negatives are crushed. These are handled as little as possible to prevent further damage. If they are handled, it is with purple nitrile gloves rather than the usual white gloves. Eventually it will be an aim to have all of these negatives made into prints so that they do not need to be handled again. In order to conserve the negatives, they are placed in boxes loosely with acid-free tissue padding around the edge. A slow but rewarding element

hAzel is re-cAtAloguing these negAtives in A more preservAtion-sound mAnner

of the curatorial work has been delving into the vast archives. Located at the back of the library, the archive room is a drab stack of grey file units. Yet within these drawers many exciting discoveries have been made by Hazel, including images of the

South Airfield Hangars under construction in 1916 and a set of reconnaissance reports sent from behind enemy lines in Germany in 1914. Earlier on in the day, Hazel showed me around the College Hall where the best artworks adorn

March 2012 50th Anniversary - LINCOLNSHIRE LIFE