BRITAIN’S TOP 10 TELECOMMS TREASURES
Museums and Galleries Month in May, BT's heritage initiative,
Connected Earth, has announced its top 10 telecommunications
artefacts of the past. The huge collection of historic objects,
which is dispersed in museums across the country, will be on display
for the 1st time through a new online catalogue available at
The catalogue has been launched to bring together almost 3,500
telecommunications items from throughout British history. It has
artefacts ranging from a 1894 transatlantic submarine telegraph
cable, to a manual switchboard which connected the last ever
manually operated call back in the 1970s. Also on the list is an
electrophone table from 1905, which was used to listen to live
opera, theatre and church services down a telephone line, long
before the invention of the radio. The new joint catalogue is
the only telecommunications specific catalogue in Britain and, for
the 1st time, full colour images of the items will be available
David Hay, head of BT Heritage, comments:- “The fact that this
online catalogue is being produced is another indication that the
Connected Earth Partnership is invaluable in terms of providing
preservation and access to the history and future of
telecommunications. The only way people could access the items
before was actually to go in person to the museums, which for many
people was simply not possible. Now the collections are available on
the internet in a virtual form. The collection will therefore be
made available to people with little or no previous experience of
the subject.” With email and text messages embedded into our daily lives, many
will have no idea what communicating without these devices involved.
This new online catalogue provides a comprehensive record of
telecommunications throughout the generations, bringing to life for
visitors how communication has shaped the world. It’s not
possible for all items in the catalogue to be on display in the
galleries, so many pieces have been stored in Connected Earth’s
partner museums, meaning some equipment will be on show to the
public for the very first time via this online catalogue.
David continues:- “The collection should appeal to a wide
range of people. Visitors will be able to use this fantastic tool to
find out which artefacts are held in which museum. The catalogue can
be used as a teaching aid, and students will be able to learn more
about the history and development of the telecommunications
The Top 10 telecommunication items in the collection are:-
1. Electrophone Table (1905) Used to listen to live opera, theatre
and church services down a telephone line, before the advent of
public radio broadcasting.
2. K4 Kiosk (1927 – 1935) The K4 ‘Vermillion Giant’ combined a K2
kiosk with stamp machines and a letter box to form a ’24-hour post
3. Manual Switchboard (1976) The switchboard used by operator Agnes
Dewar to make the last manually connected call in the UK in October
4. Hughes Printing Telegraph (1858-c1920) David Hughes’ invention to
send and receive text rather than Morse code
5. 250,00th Manchester telephone (1953) The Lord Mayor of
Manchester’s telephone and 250,000th connected by the Post Office in
the Manchester area.
6. Cook & Wheatstone Portable Double-Needle Telegraph (1838) Early
emergency communication from the railway lines (rather than
7. Roadphone (1983 - 1990s) The largest working telephone in the
world was used by British Telecom for charity fundraising and
8. Cable Test Desk from Taplow (1926 – 1960) A high specification
instrument introduced in 1920s and as accurate as today’s cable
9. Elevation Screw from Uther (1968 - 2005) Uther was the second
antenna to be built at Goonhilly, the world’s largest operational
10. First Transatlantic Submarine Telegraph Cable (1858) A small
cross-section of the original cable laid from County Kerry to
Museums and Galleries Month has been held every year since 2000, and
aims to promote museums and art galleries across the UK. The
initiative is organised by The Campaign for Museums, a registered
charity, with support from Museums Libraries and Archives Council
(MLA) through its Renaissance programme and Arts Council England.
MGM is also supported by museums, galleries and arts organisations
throughout the UK.
The Connected Earth website is packed with interactive games and
interesting facts to help people learn about how telecommunications
developed. It provides visitors with audio and video clips, 3-D
images, interactive demonstrations and photographs. To access
Connected Earth, founded by BT, log onto
and learn about how telecommunications in the 21st century compares
to using telegrams, carrier pigeons or even tom-tom drums during
years gone by.
GOVERNMENT POLICIES GHETTOISE BLACK ARTISTS
cultural diversity policies are unwittingly creating a ghetto for
black and Asian artists by pigeon-holing them according to their
Sonya Dyer, a black
artist based in London and a member of the Manifesto Club Artistic
Autonomy Group, is publishing new research that shows cultural
diversity policies aimed at increasing participation by ethnic
minorities in the visual arts sector are having the opposite effect.
Sonya Dyer said that:- "It is unusual for me to meet a
non-white person working in arts administration whose job does not
involve diversity, outreach, community, or similar. Many black and minority ethnic artists are cut off from the
mainstream and effectively treated as second class because diversity
schemes create ghettos connecting them almost exclusively with other
non-white practitioners, instead of the wider network of
powerbrokers in the mainstream art world."
Her report finds that culture minister David Lammy has pressured
national museums and galleries to set targets for black and ethnic
minority (BME) staff - and that 2 national museums (the British
Museum and the National Portrait Gallery) have already done so. She
is concerned that official policies end up placing greater emphasis
on artists’ ethnicity over their talent and ability, and can be
patronising to artists.
This report comes at a time when cultural diversity schemes are
booming in the arts sector:-
In 2002, Arts Council England designated £29 million to black, Asian
and Chinese-led organisations from its lottery-funded Arts Capital
Programme; and has committed 10 percent of its Grant for Arts awards
to black and ethnic minority artists and arts organisations.
The Arts Council runs two main 'positive action' schemes called
Inspire and decibel, which offer internships at prestigious
galleries and museums but only to ethnic minority arts
professionals. The budget for decibel was around £10 million, over
five years; the budget for Inspire is £411,000 per year.
The Museums, Archives and Libraries Council (MLA), which funds local
museums, will make diversity programmes a mandatory condition for
funding in 2008.
But Dyer argues that such government-led targets fail to get to
grips with the real reasons why BME people don’t enter the arts.
Very few graduates from non-white backgrounds choose to study a 'creative
arts' subject at university but this is because of class, not
race. The majority of black people, like white working class people,
cannot afford the typically low-paid work in the arts. Dyer
suggests that instead of singling black people out for ‘special
help’, a new 'colour-blind' approach is needed where
opportunities are offered to all people struggling to pay their way
through a career in the visual arts.
This would be fairer to
everyone in the arts and also improve the confidence of black
artists to get their work seen. Pigeon-holing them as ‘needy’
will only stigmatise them and keep them apart from the mainstream.
Dyer concludes that a wider and more honest debate is needed in the
arts sector:- '"e need a greater understanding that
practitioners from black and minority ethnic backgrounds are as 'diverse'
as any other sections of the population."
The report features interviews with black arts professionals
critical of these schemes and who agree there should be a new
Zoe Whitley, curator of contemporary projects at the V&A, notes that
there are several black curators in the mainstream museum sector,
yet these examples of success are not generally those heralded by
the diversity sector:- "Invisibility is placed upon you. There
are [black] people but nobody knows about them because they are in
Niru Ratnam, director of Store Gallery and former Inspire
coordinator at Arts Council England, noted the tokenism of some
placements:- '"the (trainee) curators tended to be given "culturally
diverse" projects to work on at their institutions.... I did get
the feeling that this is all very DCMS/David Lammy driven rather
than being any deep-seated intellectual commitment."
‘aladin’, an artist and strategy consultant, and consultant
on the Arts Council’s decibel scheme, says:- “People feel they
have to fit an agenda…We are complex people. Complexity needs to be
built into the system as well.”
Jatinder Verma of the prominent South Asian theatre company, Tara
Arts, said:- "Sonya's essay is an important contribution to
the growing feeling of unease about the state of modern British
culture, where - as she details convincingly in her essay -
'diversity' is all-too often a euphemism for stasis...I think hers
is a voice that Arts policy makers will be foolish to ignore."