How Sir Ross Smith’s Legacy Lives On

The story of Ernest Crome: the aviation fanatic

Date Published November 5, 2018
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There are days, or even a single day, that can shape your life. This was certainly the case for 17-year-old Ernest Crome. On February 14, 1920, just weeks after Sir Ross Smith had won the Great Air Race and created a legacy, Crome’s father drove him to Mascot Aerodrome, Sydney to witness the arrival of the Vickers “Vimy” in their city…

And so began Crome’s life-long passion for all things aviation. This was a passion that consumed him for the remainder of his long and accomplished life! Over a 67-year period, he collected over 50,000 individual items related to aviation history. This collection covered photos, flight covers, books, pilots’ dinner menus, pamphlets, original film, postcards, badges, telegrams and much, much more! Thanks to Crome’s incredible collection, Sir Ross Smith’s legacy lives on!

The most extraordinary component of Crome’s collection are the items relating to some of the most ground-breaking flights in aviation history! Such as the Zeppelin flights, Balboon flights, North Pole flights, and outer space flights! The collection also includes incredible artefacts from the flights of early Australian aviators like Sir Ross and Keith Smith, Bert Hinkler, Jean Batten, Charles Kingsford-Smith, Nancy Bird, Maurice Guillaux, Hudson Fysh, and many more!

Crome’s initial collection of 30,000 items was purchased in 1967 by Canberra’s National Library of Australia. This remains one of the largest collections of aviation material in the world. The collection (and Ross Smith’s legacy!) is so valuable that most of it is kept in the manuscripts’ reading room.

Crome was also an author, artist, and photographer; and most of his work remains in the National Library of Australia. However, Crome’s love of aviation history didn’t stop here! After the National Library acquired Crome’s collection, he continued to collect historic flight material, and in 1986, he donated 20,000 individual items on aviation history to the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney!

Thanks to Ernest Crome, the history of Australia’s, and the world’s, aviation history lives on! It is there for us to see and experience in the quiet rooms of the National Library of Australia and the Powerhouse Museum! And to think, it all began when young Ernie and his father drove to Mascot airport to see the landing of the Vickers “Vimy”.

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