The South African Air Force Museum joined the global community in the celebration of International Museum Day on 18 May 2021 amid the persistent COVID-19 pandemic. In order to allow for more participation and whilst adhering to COVID-19 social distancing protocol, celebrations were extended from 17 to 23 May 2021. 

This year’s theme was The Future of Museums: Recover and Reimagine. With this theme, the SAAF Museum provided a platform where members of the public could “create, imagine and share new practices of creation of common values and innovative solutions for the social and environmental challenges of the present”.

Moreover, the week-long celebrations were meant to rekindle the Museum’s relationship with the communities we serve, to experiment with new and hybrid models of cultural fruition and to strongly reaffirm the essential value of museums for the construction of a just and sustainable future. 

It was also anticipated that the celebrations would position cultural heritage as a driver for recovery and innovation in the post-COVID era. With the rise in COVID-19 cases, the possibility of a third wave and national lockdown restrictions, members from the surrounding areas appreciated the opportunity to view many of the SAAF’s aviation heritage artefacts. 

Museum personnel were surprised by the number of visitors during the week - particularly on Thursday and Friday, until it was pointed out that many children are still under home-schooling and the museum provided a wonderful educational outing for children and parents alike.

“I brought my children to come and see aircraft live and to capture the moment. They loved it. We took pictures. But most importantly, my children learnt something about the Air Force’s rich heritage”, one proud father said. 

Aircraft on the flightline static display were the Puma, Sabre, Vampire, Kudu, Bosbok, Alouette III, Dakota, Rooivalk, Cessna 185 and Harvards. The Boeing 707 was opened to allow visitors to walk though it and as usual, the public had an opportunity to engage up and close with other aircraft on display inside the hangars. Others were fascinated with the meticulous narration of the SAAF’s collective heritage in the Display Hall. 

“I’ve been coming to the Museum regularly and it is always educational and inspiring. Each time I get to understand something different and appreciate it more. I commend the Air Force Museum personnel for the commitment and dedication to serve” said Mr Smith from Pretoria North. 

“I brought my daughter, Athandwa to come and experience the world of aviation. She is young, yes, but I believe that it is important to be exposed to these things and begin their development process at an early age. She is excited to see the aircraft and is already speaking about becoming a pilot”, said Sgt Athi Bosibi from 5 ASU. 

The celebrations concluded on Sunday with many visitors enjoying the pleasant weather. All in all the opening of the museum was considered a huge success and the response of the public was overwhelmingly positive.