The First World War in the Air, Royal Air Force Museum

London, United Kingdom

The story of aviation during the First World War is one largely untold. The First World War in the Air exhibition brings to life the compelling narrative of the people, the innovations, the engineering, and the aircraft of the First World War, ultimately to help audiences understand the pivotal role of aviation both then and now. 

The incredible tales of the men and women who served in the air forces—both in the air and on the ground—are interwoven with the technological breakthroughs that paved the way for what aviation has become today. In this way, the exhibition appeals to a diverse audience, without compromising the wealth of technical details attractive to more specialized visitors. 

Large-scale, theatrical installations combining media, aircraft, and objects—including an animated trench map and a dramatic aerial dogfight—connect the chapters of the museum’s story and bring the experience to life. Working closely with the museum, RAA developed an innovative approach to the interpretation and exhibition design that substantially reshaped the way in which visitors would encounter the collections. Rather than simply showcasing the collections, the exhibition is strongly narrative-led and coalesces around a single strong message: he who controls the air controls the battlefield. 


2,300 square metres

  • Graphis, Design Annual 2015 Award: Print; Exhibit, Platinum, Royal Air Force Museum, First World War in the Air

  • Industrial Designers Society of America, International Design Excellence Award, Finalist: Environments, First World War in the Air, Royal Air Force Museum

  • The National Lottery Award, First Place: Best Heritage Project, First World War in the Air, Royal Air Force Museum

  • The Chicago Athenaeum Museum of Architecture and Design, GOOD Design Awards: Environment Award, First World War in the Air, Royal Air Force Museum

© 2014, Ralph Appelbaum Associates, Inc.