Finally, we’ve now got episode 3 online featuring our day at the Institution of Civil Engineers. It was great fun to film – it really is an amazing place, with helpful, knowledgeable and friendly staff who are very keen to help with all manner of enquiries. I first encountered the Institutions ten years ago, working on the BBC series ‘Seven Wonders of the Industrial World’; the task was to find contemporary accounts and technical papers relating to incredible engineering feats, such as the London sewer network (curiously relevant to the book I’m currently writing), Brooklyn Bridge, Brunel’s last project the Great Eastern, Hoover Dam and the Bell Rock Lighthouse, which has just celebrated its bicentenary. Talk about a kid in a sweetshop… here were the original records penned by the great engineers of the Victorian age, as well as photographs, newspaper accounts and drawings; I hadn’t been so excited since I’d first taken the 1225 pipe roll out of its box at the Public Record Office, Chancery Lane, to start my PhD.
Mike Chrimes features in our vodcast, and he was there in 2002 to assist with the project, freely giving his time and invaluable advice that saved me making mistakes when trying to interpret complicated engineering issues. His staff are also on hand to answer your questions about family relatives who perhaps pursued a career as a civil engineer – or worked on a great project during the nineteenth century or earlier as a labourer; whilst there may not be specific records, the material at the Institution will transport you back to the construction project via the material they hold, so that you can build up a picture of what life was like as a railway plate-layer, or a ‘navy’ on the earliest canal networks.
In other news this week… more cemetery records have been released by Deceased Online, this time covering Newham Cemetery in East London – again, spookily relevant to my writing on London. The countdown to Roots Tech in Salt Lake City has begun, and I’m looking forward to attending for the first time – my blog in 2 weeks will be written from the second day of the event, and it should be very interesting to see what innovations are planned. I’m specifically interested in open source transcription tools, and the move towards open data, given the work that the Open Genealogy Alliance and the FreeGEN projects are undertaking over here.
On a personal note, I’ve now started teaching for the University of Dundee, specifically the Centre for Archive and Information Studies – an online module on house history. I hope the students are enjoying it as much as I am…
We’re filming for episode 5 of the show in 4 weeks’ time, and still asking for suggestions from you – which institutions, archives or historians would you like to see featured? Drop us an email, tweet your response or post to out Facebook page!
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