An archive revealing 150 years of the county’s unique engineering heritage will be digitised, thanks to a £98,100 grant to Lincolnshire County Council from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
Up to 150,000 photographic negatives, 150 reels of cine film and the recorded memories of former workers are all to be digitised, catalogued and made available online in a project of national significance. The project is expected to take 18 months.
The photos and films form part of a huge collection showcasing the history of Lincoln-based engineering firm Ruston and Hornsby, which became part of Siemens in 2003.
The archive spans the company’s 150 years, offering a rare and detailed insight into Lincolnshire’s manufacturing heyday and Britain’s industrial revolution.
Throughout that period, Rustons and Hornsby’s engineering feats saw it capture worldwide fame.
A leader in the manufacturing of turbines and engines since 1857, the company later became the largest British builder of aero-engines during the First World War.
It created the conflict’s 1,000th Sopwith Camel, as well as 2,750 planes, 3,000 aero engines and the era’s largest bomb.
Many of its products, as well as detailed schematics, are recorded on original photographic negatives and cine film, but are starting to decay.
Dr Mike Rogers from Lincolnshire Archives said: “Many of the negatives are on acetate, which has a limited lifespan. This project will transfer the originals into digital format, helping to preserve these important pieces of social history before they’re lost forever. It will also make them available to both researchers and the public all over the world.”
Volunteers from local communities, the University of Lincoln and Bishop Grosseteste University, as well as retired and current engineers, will begin the digital transfer in September using specialist equipment at Lincolnshire Archives.
They will also carry out interviews with Ruston and Hornsby’s former employees and their relatives, recording their memories for posterity and helping to bring the past to life.
All digitised and recorded data, much of which has never been made public before, will be freely available for all to see on the Lincs to the Past website.
Councillor Nick Worth, Executive Member for Culture at Lincolnshire County Council, said: “Lincolnshire’s heritage as an industrial powerhouse has left an extraordinary mark on our local communities.
“This project puts the spotlight on that legacy, which played a huge role in Britain’s history as the pioneer of invention. It also ensures our local story is protected for the future and never forgotten.”
Frank Carchedi, Director of Quality at Siemens in Lincoln, said:
“The items contained in the archive are not just important to understanding the legacy of engineering in Lincolnshire – they provide an incredibly detailed account of how the industrial revolution in Britain was experienced by the people at its heart.”
The Ruston and Hornsby archive was collected and looked after for many years by the firm’s former information officer, Mr Ray Hooley.
Their permanent preservation was secured in 2012 thanks to a partnership between Siemens, Lincolnshire County Council and the University of Lincoln.
That project saw the collection’s photographs re-housed in Lincolnshire Archives and films re-located to the Media Archive for Central England at the University of Lincoln, which now owns the entire Ruston and Hornsby archive.
To volunteer with the project, people can contact Dr Mike Rogers on 01522 552029 or [email protected]