Institution of Civil Engineers


Carol Morgan - Archivist

Formed in 1818, The Institution of Civil Engineers archive holds a large and distinctive collection of books, photographs and manuscripts relating to the construction industry, both past and present, with the earliest book (a copy of the Trevis' Book on Architecture) dating back to the 15th century.

From promoting collections, to supporting the panel for historical engineering works, Carol Morgan provides a fascinating insight into her role as archivist and outlines the rich and varied collections she has had the good fortune to work on.

Carol also talks about how The Institution of Civil Engineers has invested in its online presence and how, as a result, it now has a wide variety of e-books and e-journals easily accessible to the public.

As a glimpse of things to come, perhaps, Carol discusses ICE's experience with online exhibitions. So far these have showcased engineering feats from World War I and World War II as well as the unique and prestigious content of the library catalogue, including landmark projects like Tower Bridge and The Bell Rock Lighthouse by such luminaries as Robert Stevenson, Sir Alexander Gibb and John Wolfe Barry.

Please Note: This is an automated, machine-generated transcription. We have presented this 'as is' and have not undertaken any editing.

Hello and welcome to the Max Communications 2020 podcast a series of podcasts where we explore various archives and collections my name is Faith Williams and i'm joined today by Carol Morgan archivist for the Institute of Civil Engineers Carol would you like to introduce yourself and tell us about how you came to be in your position yes um i've been at the um it's actually institution i've been used to civil engineers for 29 years now so not bad for a one-year contract uh i came here having made a career change i began as a library assistant but i became fascinated by the archive collections i used to cover at lunchtime down here and uh gradually you know rather than just taking a message i started thinking oh i know the answer to that or i know where to find it and the um when the archivist was on long term sick leave i was supported to train as an archivist the ic supported me and here i am oh fantastic so can you tell us a wee bit about what the institute does and and what civil engineering concentrates on as a topic yeah well the ice um it's a professional body for civil engineers um our members design construct maintain the infrastructure really that allows us all to live our lives uh someone once said that civil engineers put the civil into civilisation um and originally civil engineering just meant non-military obviously we have all the other um types of engineering now the structural the electricals um so it's everything really from when you get up in the morning you turn on the tap you've got your water supply switch on the light boiler kettle your power supply um using the bathroom drainage sewers getting from a to b all types of transport buildings smart buildings energy saving smart cities materials everything from cast iron through to self-healing pavements also things that protect people so you know flood prevention coastal protection breakwaters like houses pretty much everything really that allows us to carry on our lives so how do you spend an average day in your role oh well there isn't really an average day as especially not at the moment anyway um we've been obviously working from home a lot um you know i'm i'm doing two days in the office at the moment and the rest of it at home so um we have got a couple of member staff who are back in full time at the moment in the library staff and um because the archives is part of our larger library so luckily during lockdown we've been able to answer most of our inquiries using online and digital uh sources would be you know we tend to scan on demand so i spend a lot of time scanning and wants to do a lot more of that really because we've just realised this this past about four or five months now isn't it um has made us realize how useful it is not just for members of the public and and inquirers but also for ourselves um so it's a balancing act really between responding to researchers and working with the collections so promoting the collections through twitter as well um currently we're going through um hashtag archives with a zed um which is an Asia set of archives we're on week m at the moment for monorail maps and Manchester ship canal um so also working obviously with the collections themselves listing things putting them on the computer on the database i also support our panel for historical engineering works or a few phew um the panel that they identify and record structures and projects of historical interest in each region um and promote their projects through talks and trowel leaflets and plaques and we've been putting a lot more photographs on their database at the moment while i've been at home um the point between behind that is first of all to identify the structures that are important so we can keep an eye on them but also we have sub-panels that look at particular things like bridges canals and they try to sort of um record a lot more than than just the ones historical interests so they can actually put ones into context so someone comes to them and asks you know there's a local bridge that's you know being planned to be demolished they can actually give a a considered and um opinion on whether on on how important it is whether it's unique whether it's the oldest of its type whether it's got a famous engineer that sort of thing as you've said civil engineering is very broad and there was a real sort of um a real concentration during the time that you were founded 1818 that's industrial revolution all over the country so you must have a very broad collection well yes i say really it's a bit our collection sort of covers everything that anyone ever does in some ways um but yes it is broad um as i say the archives is part of the wider library collection and the um which consists mainly obviously books but e-books we've we've invested heavily on e-journals and e-books um both the archive and the library collections are designated the archive material is can be divided sort of into two parts really we've got our own corporate records and then we've got the collections which have been mainly donated by members um and so the corporate records are things like our council minutes uh we've got all the papers have been read at meetings um particularly before we started publishing in the 1830s although afterwards we have got some unpublished papers as well and they really form the beginnings of our library and archive we've got application forms for everyone who's ever joined since 1818 um up to 18 and up to 1930 these are on ancestry um these forms have actually been listed on the unesco memory of the world register has been about international importance and we've got forms for people like ik brunel who everyone's heard of Robert Stevenson also John Wolfe Barry he was the engineer for tower bridge and many other projects uh across the world and jersey fazel jetto did the London main sewage system uh so we've got lots of books as well in the archives the earliest book we've got is about 15th century it's a copy of the trevis's book on architecture but we've got everything from that through to eBooks both technical books uh and also more general biographies histories of companies railways canal books they're always of interest to people um from the election side they really reflect the work of our members and they are international our members have always worked um abroad particularly the colonists but also further afield um so we've got images we've got photo albums loose prints glass slides um that used to be used for giving talks sort of lantern slides and of course the 35 mil slides as well so the albums have got lots of railway construction images things like indium railway bridges the south Australian railway lots of pictures of camels in there surprisingly Canadian pacific railway and things like the bayer and San Francisco railway in Brazil and those were interesting because they were taken by an English photographer Benjamin Mirlock and recently we were actually a couple years ago we were actually approached by a Brazilian author who wanted to reproduce them in a book because there were no copies actually in Brazil so some of our images and some of our information that we have you know really isn't available anywhere else closer to home one of my favourite albums of photographs is Southampton doc it's a lovely presentation volume it was given to Philip Hedger when he retired as a secretary in the 1890s secretary of the dock company and it's the photos show all the staff at the docks so you've got the police force there's a huge police force um obviously to protect the warehouses from theft and that fireman with a horse-drawn fire engine and some wonderful image images of uh divers in their diving gear and showing them climbing down out of these like flat barges um climbing down on like an ordinary ladder climbing into the water uh that's been quite an event because it looks like everyone gathered round to watch and there's plenty of photos of horses of course horses were used to move wagons and material around the docks essential really um other things we've got got drawings so we've got the Mackenzie collection of french railways that's got maps and plans of bridges and lots of stations we've got Thomas and Charles hawks these waterworks drawings the mainly Coventry and Norwich but a variety of other schemes as well and those are lovely coloured water coloured uh drawings showing the details of the buildings and we also had the wolf barry drawings um as i mentioned before wolf barry was engineer for um towel bridge and unfortunately all that thousands of drawings none of them were of tower bridge however recently we managed to get acquire a collection of tower bridge um drawings at auction and these actually show the internal steel work by William arrow which is the bits that aren't really visible so that's very exciting you know when you look at the bridge you can't see the iron work it's all hidden by the masonry covering we've got notebooks and diaries now they're off they're good because they often give an insight into the lives of engineers so you know we've got mark brunell's diaries um he wrote those whilst he was working on the Thames tunnel but they also recalled when ik brunell his son when he was um his design was chosen for the clifton suspension bridge also records the launch of the ss great Britain as well um mark was very proud of his town also he used to count how many visitors came through when it was opened um so each day you had a running total of visitors but he did complain about people making the tunnel dirty going through and scuffing the bricks and saying that someone had to clean them every day i don't suppose that happened for very long um it's interesting though would be brunel diaries some of the pages had got clippings bits cut out um presumably by the family whether they were going to put them in a scrapbook i i don't know but um a few years ago some of these entry diaries um came up at auction and they ended up down in bristol at the brunel center and one of the important ones that were missing from our diary was actually the opening of the thames tunnel and it turned up in all the in this collection so it's we've got a scanned copy now and it's great to actually see it reunited um with the original journal diary okay yeah uh other things we've got um we've got scrap books we've got a few of these these are quite interesting as they they sometimes hint engineers others in other interests so you get a lot of poetry for some strange reason um and one scrapbook we've got um belonged to sir charles or Augustus Hartley um he was one of the commissioners of the danube and he was based in salina and there's actually a photograph of the um the staff and the children at the local catholic school uh along with a list of of the um where they all came from their nationalities not quite really what you'd expect to find in such a thing so whether whether the workers children attended the school or maybe he was supporting the school maybe he was a governor or gave money to the school who knows but uh it's sort of those those hints a life outside of engineering um and finally almost finally we've got um artificial collections well not many but sometimes people have collected like the vellumi collection which um it's all about clocks and this was actually collected by the venomi family but also we've got the concrete collection which we actually collected ourselves and um a small group of people wrote around to various firms working with concrete particularly reinforced concrete and asked us samples of drawings and samples of their archives so that involves things like pamphlets photographs technical information and some physical examples of concrete reinforcement which is the metal that's inside the concrete strengthening it um and that was deliberately created to support our members practicing engineers to understand how older buildings were built um so they could support refurbishment and even demolition where it's important to know the loading of the floor the original loading and how parts of the structure work together because this reinforcement is hidden and you know how the floor is attached to the walls at the sides and uh yeah finally with portraits as well every institution has its uh portraits on the wall most of those are our past presidents uh one of my favourites is John Alexander Brody he was engineer for mersey dock and harbour company back in the 1870s and 80s but more interesting to me was that um Liverpool being a city very much known for its sport brody was a great football fan um he actually supported everton and back in the 1880s late 1880s there were no super c all seater stand so he went along one day and one of the everton players ran up the pitch with the ball aimed for the goal and because the spectators were standing behind the goal it bounced off someone's leg and the referee didn't know whether it was a goal or not and so brody went away and invented the uh goal net and this is a great story for demonstrating how civil engineering it's not just about working on sites and and getting muddy and it's about solving problems and how if you've got that sort of inquiring mind you know you never sort of switch off you see a problem and you want to solve it and that's a very obviously very social problem that's a social um solution and social problem but it's probably and you know most people would be familiar with that on Saturday afternoon that's so interesting i'm not sure how many people would be pleased to hear that Everton is responsible for the modern football pops design them and you've mentioned a few people that access your collection so you've got an ancestry people you've got your members and your researchers what type of things are they looking for is it is it technical details a lot of the time it depends who it is you know obviously the archives support the ice but both internally the staff and and our members so um your staff thinks it's often people um you know that have been a member in the past or or are applying for a job and they need to confirm that they've actually got a certain qualification so that's the sort of official record-keeping side of it um members are currently working often do look for technical information particularly when working on existing buildings whether say whether it's refurbishment or even demolition you know if you know how the building's been built how it was put up sometimes it helps with actually how you take it down um other than that members of the public yes a lot of people looking for ancestors not as many as they used to because obviously they can get it for ancestry but yes a lot of people looking for ancestors authors looking for english sorry authors looking for illustrations um biographers and engineering historians and the media you know particularly tv there's been a lot of interest in engineering history on tv in recent years um and in the press but particularly tv it's really taken off oh what type of things are they looking at is it like brunel is it those famous types of um projects or is it well yeah well it does tend to be you know brunel basil jet um they're the main two really but it's some of them bridges bridges are big um had a lot of things on bridges railways um but yes it does tend to get a lot on on basal jet and bruno it would be nice really to if someone did something on telford or you know our first president who actually you work throughout the country but isn't as well known as you know ik bruno i think was voted something like second greatest britain back in about 2000 when the bbc did that um that poll um you know he is the one if people if you ask the average person to name an engineer Brunel would probably be or historical engineer Brunel would probably be the one that they would know of yeah yeah i think you're right people do really like a bridge there's something i don't know there's something quite romantic about them almost and i listen to me i i love bridges and lighthouses as well that's one of my little favourites yeah lighthouses are quite unusual i definitely see that for sure um you're still collecting then presumably um from current projects and things like that um we are we are we tend to i'm assuming we tend to end up with a lot of um our collections when people sort of clear out their loft or something or somebody dies and we get the collection um the problem these days in in some ways is that the projects are so huge um you know there's no way we could collect everything say about the channel tunnel you know and also it's a lot of published information now um so we tend to we tend to aim to be a sort of portal so that if someone comes to us and and asks about um you know have we got anything on the channel channel we'll say well yes we've got some things but they also need to go to whether it's network rail or you know channel tunnel used to have their of their own archive um so we would try and find out where the majority of the collection is rather than actually trying to store everything ourselves which wouldn't be possible and and probably isn't really uh um the best solution at all um so we tend to be aware try to be aware of where things are stored rather than try to collect it all so do you have quite close links with other organizations we try to yes well yeah we was very close with the imeki and the iet we've done several online exhibitions together at the moment we've got um a world war one and world war ii um on a separate website which i can give you the links to um and we have done physical exhibitions in the past as well and so we borrowed um we borrow from other organizations and we lend as well um we've uh we've worked with people like the Rochester bridge trust the ss Great Britain we've had links within the past we lent some um diaries um up to the national waterways museum up up in um ellesmere port um so yes we try to work together where we can that's really interesting that's nice that you have a lot of information sharing going on what are your hopes for the future of your collection then well you know so um we're certainly doing a lot of digitization um so we want to continue obviously uh developing the collection um you know one of the things is we've actually got an archive panel um who helps support us um because one of the other things about the new collecting is you want to sort of collect things that either fill a gap or a new um so to try to be a bit more proactive so yeah in the future you know we'd like to carry on collecting um we need to really try to be a bit more proactive rather than reactive and try so it's trying to select um projects that we would like at least a sample from or to know where the where the records are for these um so digitizing more material making the collections more accessible and the same recent months have shown how has shown how important this is uh we've changed our library catalogue provider a couple of years ago and we've got some exciting things that we can add now the archive material can now be added into that web links and most exciting of all we can add images on so that's something we'll be working on quite a lot as well um as you mentioned be nice to do more joint activities as well um oh another one that we've done with the joint activities was we we had a contract for Budapest bridge for one of the ksons and the ice supported a project in Hungary um to scan all the rest of the uh relevant material in their collections all the drawings and correspondence and get that put online on a database as well it's not on our website but we can access that as well so that was another sort of joint thing as well so we like these sort of joint projects really what in your opinion you've mentioned a lot of things that you have um a lot of famous people but what is your most favourite item what do you find the most interesting oh no they see that is such a hard question i can't just pick one i i do like the quirky things so for example we have um a cannonball which belonged to Robert Rawlinson and he was a member of the sanitary commission he went out to the crimean war um to help improve the conditions for the soldiers um both in the hospitals and generally in like in the barracks now out there um and while he was there he was injured he was hit by um a cannonball luckily it hadn't come from a can it was a spent one but it it hit him and injured him and as you know um he saved it and had it inscribed and we've got a letter about it and a photograph actually taken by roger fenton famous photographer um and it's a photo of Robert Rawlinson with John Sutherland Dr John Sutherland and next to rollinson is what looks extremely like this cannonball um by sideway with a sort of bowling bag which i assume is what he carried it around in i'm not sure um but anyway so he brought it all the way back and over the years it's been presented to us um it's an unusual thing i'm not quite sure that i would stop and pick up a cannonball that had injured me but um yeah um another thing i say like being the quirky side is a horse book um which was kept by William McKenzie in the 1830s William McKenzie was a railway engineer and this lists all the horses that were being used by their name so we've got names like star major Tommy Smiler lofty rolly and boxer all those sort of names that you know if you ever wanted to know what a horse was called in the 1830s um i did wonder at first whether it was something that they had to keep you know perhaps for the rspca or something but i think what was happening was i think that they were probably hiring the horses and the owners got paid according to whether the horse had done a full day or a half day and whether it was pulling an empty or full wagon uh you probably were probably different prices according to um you know time and work so that's another interesting one and finally only one more finally um we've got the self-deven atmospheric uh railway watercolours and this is a lovely volume of about 20 paintings they were done by William Weston in 1847 and they they're sort of an artistic view so they're very pretty um and they show views along the line between Exeter and top ness this is one of brunel's projects the line is still in existence but it only really worked as an atmospheric railway like a vacuum system for less than a year really uh the idea was that there was a sort of um a pipe with a slot in it and the back and that was kept as a vacuum and underneath the uh engines and that there was a piece of metal that came down into the into the pipe and it was sealed it with like gutta-percha um so that it sort of opened as the carriage came on as the engine came along and then closed behind it unfortunately the rats were rather partial to it and chewed at it and it rotted and got eaten quite quickly so of course i lost the vacuum but what was interesting with the volume is that it shows the view each side of the line at the top and bottom and across the middle of the page is the route now you have to sort of use your imagination for this the idea is that you start at the side of the page and you look along the route now you imagine you're travelling along the road and if you imagine you're in a train and you're looking out the window each side and then imagine that flattened down you actually find that one of the um images of one of the sides that you're looking at is always upside down because you're imagining that you're actually in the carriage um so that's quite interesting i'll say that these are completely unique there was only one copy of these you know one volume ever made um and it's really lovely and it shows views of the uh navies but also members of the public coming along and watching and watching what's going on or just going about their lives generally um so it's very nice yeah thank you so much for agreeing to talk to me today Carl it's been really interesting here about the myriad of things that civil engineering covers and the amount of history you have in your archive not just Brunel and bridges and i really hope that you get eventually maybe one day a tv program on Thomas Telford and that would be exciting wouldn't it and you're based in you're based in Westminster aren't you next yeah sorry we're just next door to the imeki as well so if anyone's uh planning a visit not at the moment because we're currently um closed really but um in the future if you're planning a visit the imeki is right next door and the iet are just down the road so do you all in one is there anywhere that you want would like to point people in the direction of the your archive um online exhibits things like that uh yes i say we've got the ex the exhibition the world war one and world war ii exhibition um which is online i can give you some links to those we've got an image database online as well and of course there's our library catalogue with the archive material online on that as well so lots of things that you can actually have a look at and of course our ancestry as well has got our collections we'll pop them on the page for people to have a look at them thank you perfect thank you so much for talking to me today that's okay it's been lovely talking about all our collections thank you