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|The American Air Museum >> History|
The Imperial War Museum first began to operate at Duxford in the mid 1970s. The historic site and growing collection were immediately of interest to the many American veterans who flew from East Anglia and who revisited their old bases and the surrounding area in large numbers. Lasting and warm relationships with these American visitors rapidly developed and the Museum installed temporary and then permanent exhibitions illustrating the role of the 8th Air Force and recording Duxford’s time as a USAAF fighter base from 1943 to 1945. A particularly close relationship grew with the 8th Air Force Historical Society and 8th Air Force Memorial Museum Foundation, which consistently supported exhibition and restoration activities at Duxford.
In the mid 1980s, plans began to develop for a more ambitious commemoration of the role of American air power in the Second World War and subsequent years. An initial group of distinguished American supporters was formed who enlisted the help of Norman Foster, the leading British architect, to prepare outline plans for a new building.
Great stress was laid on minimising maintenance and running costs, and the design team’s solution was a stunning piece of architecture and engineering, providing 6,400 sqm (nearly 70,000 sq ft) of exhibition and ancillary space, with a huge glass front 90 metres (295 ft) wide and a great domed concrete roof.
The project reached another milestone on 8 September 1995 as Major James E. Stokes, former P-47 pilot with Duxford’s wartime 78th Fighter Group, broke ground for the new building. The event took place in front of around five hundred guests including 300 American Air Museum Founding Members who travelled from the United States for the ceremony.
Since that day, the Museum has gone from strength to strength. Subsequent developments have included the construction of a Museum shop and café and the creation of a Founders and Friends Room, which was generously supported by AAM’s US Co-Chairman Georgia Frontiere, South Cambridgeshire District Council and Rotary International.
The design and building soon won several awards; the Royal Institute of British Architects Stirling Prize and the Royal Fine Art Commission/British Sky Broadcasting Building of the Year Award in 1998, the Civic Trust Award in 1999, the Concrete Society Award for 1999-2000 and Regional Winner of the Celebrating Construction Achievement Awards in 2000.