The Tank Museum in Bovington, Dorset, is home to one of the largest collections of military vehicles in the world. But it is thanks to the staff of a nearby university that its large fleet has been preserved for future generations.
Professor Zulfiqar Khan of Bournemouth University has used technological and engineering research to develop methods of reversing the structural degradation of the fleet of more than 300 vehicles.
Many of the tanks on display and in storage are of significant historical value and are also examples of British engineering heritage – but their age and design raise many preservation issues.
Over the past 13 years, Khan and his colleagues at Bournemouth have studied a dozen key tanks, including the Tiger, Sherman, and Valentine, to develop methods of preserving their lifespan.
The research focused on materials and systems used, as well as common mechanical failures. Tanks were also compared with one another to identify varying strengths and weaknesses.
The result of these studies has been the development of new conservation facilities, the installation of humidity and temperature sensors, as well as live corrosion monitoring on the vehicles.
The research has also played an important role in enabling the museum to secure £2.5m in funding from the National Lottery Heritage fund to invest in its on-site Vehicle Conservation Centre.
Opened in 2013, the centre provides a controlled environment in which to prevent the deterioration of the vehicles.
Khan, who is Professor of Design Engineering and Computing at Bournemouth, said: ‘I started work with the Tank Museum in 2009 because I wanted to develop a sustainable method of conserving large military vehicles in the museum.’
‘[The research] has played an important role in helping people to better understand British heritage,’ he added.
The museum dates from the early 1920s, when writer Rudyard Kipling visited Bovington and viewed the damaged tanks stored there from the First World War. A museum of the collection opened to the public in 1947 and has since expanded several times.