Classic skills and virtual discovery – The Tank Museum looks to a new generation

An apprentice scheme and a push into the virtual world will put a new generation at the heart of The Tank Museum’s future.

With its world-class collection of armored vehicles, exhibitions, and live displays, the Bovington attraction is popular with servicemen, families and school groups. Now it is looking to a group museums often find hard to reach – 18 to 25 year-olds.

The Tank Museum has secured initial support from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for a £2.1million grant to build a 16,000 square foot, seven-bay workshop and launch a training scheme for young people. This will create more space to maintain its fleet and equip young people with the vital skills to work on them in the future.

Skilled apprentices are greatly sought after in the heritage motor industry – which covers both tanks and classic cars. The scheme aims to provide young people, including those with no mechanical experience, with a springboard to future job opportunities as well as addressing the skills shortage within the industry.

At the same time, the museum will strengthen connections with a growing online audience. Its partnership with Wargaming, publishers and developers of the game `World of Tanks` and sponsor of the museum’s annual TANKFEST, has seen an unprecedented number of young gamers turn a virtual interest for tanks into a fascination for the real thing. This interest means the sold out event has had 20,000 visitors and more than a million online viewers have seen and shared content worldwide.

Working with students, vloggers, and other online communities, the HLF-supported project will reimagine how the Tank Museum’s story is shared on-site, nationally and globally.

The funding news was announced in style to TANKFEST crowds. Stephen Boyce, Chair of the HLF South West Committee was flown into the arena by Sioux helicopter. He said: “Thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, the Tank Museum continues to go from strength to strength. Whether it’s boosting employment prospects or turning an interest into active participation, involving young people in the heritage that matters to them is a key priority for the Heritage Lottery Fund, so we’re delighted to see the opportunities these plans offer and look forward to seeing them develop.”

The project is the final stage of a decade-long transformation, largely made possible by National Lottery players through support from HLF. A new display area, conservation centre and a number of exhibitions have helped to secure the future of the nationally important collection and attract increasing numbers of visitors and volunteers.

The Tank Museum Director Richard Smith said; “Sell out events are rare in the Museum community – and TANKFEST provides the opportunity to shine a spotlight on how previous HLF support has allowed us to go from strength to strength as a museum that is succeeding in reaching new audiences.


“Our partners at Wargaming are assisting us to reach out to a younger generation, fostering in them an interest in our story and our artefacts.  We hope some of these will be inspired to become apprentice engineers who will help ensure The Tank Museum can continue to hold events with running historic vehicles for generations to come.”

A development grant of £71,800 will enable the Tank Museum to progress the ambitious plans and apply for a full grant at a later date.



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