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World’s oldest telecom company builds online museum

BT has also created an online archive of nearly 500,000 photographs, documents and letters gathered since 1846

HM Queen Elizabeth II opening the public Subscriber Trunk Dialling system by making an automatic telephone call to the Provost of Edinburgh from Bristol Telephone Exchange (then the longest distance a call called be dialled without the assistance of an operator), 5 December 1958. Photo: courtesy BT Heritage

The world’s oldest telecommunications company, British Telecom (BT), has created an online archive of nearly 500,000 photographs, documents and letters gathered since 1846. The year-long project, New Connections, is due to be completed by July and is a collaboration between BT, Coventry University and the National Archives and cost £1m, £745,000 of which was funded by Jisc, a digital technology charity.

BT has also founded Connected Earth, an online museum of communication based on physical collections of historic items held in museums around the UK, including the National Museum of Scotland and the Museum of London.

The archive is broad in scope, covering gender relations in the workplace, advertising and the impact technology has had on society. Highlights of the collection, which is housed in London and is recognised by Unesco, include photographs of the Queen making the first automatic long-distance telephone call from Bristol to Edinburgh in 1958 and the first UK telephone exchange dating from 1878.

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