Last Wednesday BPMA’s Head of Archives Vicky Parkinson and myself were lucky enough to be invited to an opening event for BT’s new digital archives catalogue.
This involved us ascending to the 34th floor to the old revolving restaurant of the BT Tower in Fitzrovia (by the way the restaurant may have closed – in 1980 – but the viewing space still revolves, from my experience a slightly unsettling feeling). There we enjoyed fabulous views over sunny London and a series of launch speeches for the BT catalogue which has now gone live here.
The BT Digital Archives was developed through the New Connections project, a one million pound collaboration between Coventry University, BT and The National Archives, in order to bring an important part of this unique archive and innovations story to a much wider audience. It was funded by JISC under Strand B: Mass Digitisation of their Content programme between November 2011 and July 2013.
The project aimed to catalogue, digitise and develop a searchable online resource of almost half a million photographs, images, documents and correspondence, a core part of the overall collection assembled by BT over 165 years, including over:
- 45,000 photographs and pictures, c1865 – 1982
- 190,000 pages from over 13,500 research reports, 1878 – 1981
- 230,000 documents from over 550 policy and operational files, 1851 – 1983
JISC funding ended in July 2013, but the site will continue to be maintained and developed by BT Heritage and Coventry University as part of their continuing collaboration working with Axiell.co.uk suppliers of the Arena platform.
One thing I liked was an early appearance of Tommy Flowers (who later led the team which designed Colossus, the world’s first programmable electronic computer) from 1931. Engineering Research Report 5235 (TCB 422/5325) is co-written by Flowers and entitled ‘Key Sending from “A” Positions using a AC Signals on a Straightforward Junction Basis over Two Wire Junctions’.
- Gavin McGuffie, Archive Catalogue and Project Manager