Happy Christmas Eve! 'The Christmas Tree', by Albert Chevallier Tayler, 1911.


2014 has been a year of great activity in the archive, pathing the way for exciting developments in 2015.

This year cannot go past without mentioning those who lost their lives, while members of this Institution, during the First World War. We have commemorated them in a number of ways, through our Honour Roll and Engineers at War: from Home Front to Battle Front exhibition. The latter features a Resources page from which anyone can access all our 1914-1918 archive materials: education and knowledge sharing seems a fitting legacy. The exhibition is the first time we have mounted an online exhibit, and our first major collaboration with the electrical and civil engineering institution archives. It has caused great interest and got featured on Ancestry’s blog.

The 1914-1918 digitisation project is part of a wider programme to make our resources available, some notable items now accessible online are automobile drawings of Lanchester cars and Sir Frederick Henry Royce’s sketchbook. Next year our Virtual Archive is going to be developed to make it easier and quicker to use: our aim is to make as much requested material available as we can. Part of this has involved exciting experiments with 3D photography, if visiting 1 Birdcage Walk reception you can now view our virtual museum (coming online soon!) and explore items as diverse as tokens used by George Stephenson to travel the railway network and a wind test model of the prize winning Golden Arrow. Here is a preview, from our First World War holdings.

A major undertaking has been cataloguing of our non-Institutional collections. We hold hundreds of personal and business collections (catalogued as PER* and BUS* on our archive catalogue) which range from individual one-off items to company records:

  • Sir Marc Isambard Brunel writes to Alexandre Comte de La Rochefoucauld concerning a French Government order for a Maudslay table engine, with an extract from Brunel’s ‘Bill Book’, 1817 and an ink drawing of the ‘Steam Engine of 8 Horses Power’ by Henry Maudslay.
  • Materials detailing the development and career of the “Miss England III” speedboat, from Albert Victor Knowles of John I Thornycroft & Company.
  • Arthur Edward Chard’s postcard collection features illustrations of hundreds of (mainly) British railway locomotives, organised by company they were collected c1910-20s.
  • Records of Anglo-American PLC’s Malaya tin mining operations, including planning materials for post-World War II reconstruction.
  • Examples of apprenticeship agreements and of engineering educational materials, including coursework and notebooks. These records
  • Walter WR Searle’s Hoover Keymatic automatic washing machine patents, assigned to the Hoover Company.
  • Alfred Craven was a railway engineer, he spent lots of time in Japan and correspondence in his colleciton shows that he supported Japanese children in their education.
  • And scores of engineering notebooks; our favourites are by Henry Wright who worked for Boulton & Watt as they include beautiful illustrations with technical details.

The archive of Frank Ewart Smith has also been catalogued. Next year we will be undertaking the cataloguing of our drawing collections and of a collection of notebooks completed in a Second World War POW camp. Our catalogue interface is also going to be totally re-done, making it much easier to use.

Other key pieces of work have included conservation of etchings by steam hammer engineer James Nasmyth and the re-framing of our Frank Gordon Crosby pastel and water colours of motor races (Crosby designed Jaguar’s figurehead). In support of the Engineering Heritage Awards, we have created regional tours of the honoured sites/items. We have also developed the engineering history and Institutional history pages on our website. Of course, there have also been countless other tasks undertaken: from relocating portraits of engineers such as Christopher Hinton around our headquarters to making specialist folders for prints.

Now have fun with our advent calendar!

Merry Christmas and see you in 2015.

Happy Christmas Eve! 'The Christmas Tree', by Albert Chevallier Tayler, 1911.
Happy Christmas Eve! ‘The Christmas Tree’, by Albert Chevallier Tayler, 1911. IMechE Christmas card cover, date unknown.

We are closed from today until 5th January 2015.

Archive, Institution of Mechanical Engineers


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