I went along to see the revamped First World War galleries, which were absolutely stunning.
Then of course I sauntered into the gift shop, as you do!
And they were selling these amazing boxes....
They were originally used to store aerial photo negatives, mostly of important locations on the Western Front during the First World War. They've been tucked away in the museum's vaults since the early 1930s, when they were donated by the RAF School of Photography.
The museum had over 2,000 of these boxes holding 120,000 negatives, which they think is the largest collection in the world. The decision was made to house them in modern, safer storage containers and to sell off the wooden boxes to raise money for the museum.
So that's how they ended up in the shop!
If you fancy getting your hands on a unique bit of history, you'd better hurry up, as after I bought one, there were only three left!!!
My one has its original sticker on the side and is BOX 5051, with the date 1917. Brilliantly, inside there were several original paper envelopes which the negatives would have been kept in. They give tantalising clues as to what was on the negatives.
Each has a date on it and are from just before two major battles. April 1916, three months before the Battle of the Somme and April to July 1917 which preceded Passchendaele. Could they have been reconnaissance photos for these two ill-fated battles?
A further historical touch was provided free of charge as it still had dust on the top of it!!
|As you can see, here are the original envelopes left inside the box.|
|BOX 5051 from 1917.|
|Here are the envelopes with their dates and reference numbers on them.|
|This was the oldest one, from 23 April 1916, featuring No. 6 Squad.|
|This was the information provided in the shop, but they've probably sold out now!|