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Clubs, Groups and Societies For discussions about various clubs, groups and societies relating to our hobbies, such as the BVWS (incl NVCF), BATC, RSGB, APTS, CLPGS, THG, TCC etc. This is NOT an official forum for any of these organisations.

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Old 23rd Apr 2019, 11:49 am   #1
'LIVEWIRE?'
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Exclamation International Marconi Day at Oxford Science Museum

This coming Saturday, 27th. April, 2019, from 12 noon-4PM an event to mark International Marconi Day will take place at the Oxford Museum of the History of Science (to give it it's official title) https://hsm.ox.ac.uk/. Entrance is free, although donations are requested. The Museum is in Broad Street, Oxford, OX1 3AZ (01865 277280) Please note that entrance to the museum involves 14 stone steps, and that the exhibition is on two different floors.

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Old 23rd Apr 2019, 12:33 pm   #2
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Default Re: International Marconi Day at Oxford Science Museum

Bonus for two wheeled transport, there is free motorcycle parking a few yards away from the entrance.
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Old 23rd Apr 2019, 8:39 pm   #3
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Default Re: International Marconi Day at Oxford Science Museum

And you might even arrive on time in spite of Oxford's traffic!
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Old 23rd Apr 2019, 9:45 pm   #4
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Default Re: International Marconi Day at Oxford Science Museum

I would caution people thinking of travelling a long way to see the collection. Although the museum does indeed hold the Marconi collection, most of it is in reserve in a warehouse somewhere and only a small part of it is on public display. The museum doesn't have a lot of vintage electronics on show generally.
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Old 23rd Apr 2019, 10:26 pm   #5
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Default Re: International Marconi Day at Oxford Science Museum

Paul, you may be right. I've only been to the museum once, and didn't have time to go over the whole museum, but this coming Saturday they are holding a special exhibition to mark International Marconi Day. Aa I live just over 20 miles from Oxford, I'll be going on Saturday so may post more on here following my visit.
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Old 23rd Apr 2019, 10:28 pm   #6
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Default Re: International Marconi Day at Oxford Science Museum

There is (or at least, there was la few years ago) an on-line catalogue with images of most of their items. Nearly a decade ago I did contact them about an item incorrectly labelled as a giant radio valve that is in fact a large bipost-base photoflood lamp bulb of a specified colour temperature, but they didn't seem interested and it was still incorrectly identified the last time I looked.
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Old 23rd Apr 2019, 10:37 pm   #7
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Default Re: International Marconi Day at Oxford Science Museum

I get the distinct impression that twentieth century electronics isn't an area of interest for the management or curators, and that the Marconi collection was rather wished on them because the Bodleian wanted the paper archives. I may be wrong of course.
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Old 23rd Apr 2019, 11:11 pm   #8
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Default Re: International Marconi Day at Oxford Science Museum

Like you Paul I live near Oxford, and although the Museum of the History of Science is indeed interesting, it mainly features cases of astrolabes and early microscopes. The most interesting, and possibly most recent (as in when it dates from) exhibit, is a blackboard with formulae on it written by Einstein when he gave a lecture at Oxford.

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Old 24th Apr 2019, 1:49 am   #9
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Default Re: International Marconi Day at Oxford Science Museum

Thanks Paul [and Co] for differentiating between this "general" Museum Event/Publicity Day and the Bodleian Collection which [as I understand it] came to the rescue of the Marconi Archive [as reported in the BVWS Bulletin]. I did think initially "Why aren't the Bodleian involved". Local academic rivalry I suspect I couldn't get there anyway as it happens. My West Oxfordshire relatives are now located in Bicester but I still fully intend to check a few things out at the Bodleian in due course! Plus the great Pitt Rivers of course!

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Old 24th Apr 2019, 8:57 am   #10
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Default Re: International Marconi Day at Oxford Science Museum

The Bod is a reference library, not a museum, and doesn't store physical artefacts other than manuscripts. When the collection first arrived there was a one off exhibition which took over a large part of the MHS basement and did include some Bodleian Marconi documents, but the two bodies don't normally present joint exhibitions. The paper stuff went to the Bod and everything else went to the MHS.

The Bod now has its own tourist oriented exhibition space, the Weston Library almost opposite the MHS on Broad Street. This was created from the 1930s 'New Bodleian' building after it became redundant for University research use.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weston_Library
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Old 24th Apr 2019, 12:19 pm   #11
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Default Re: International Marconi Day at Oxford Science Museum

To get access to the Bodleian you have to have a reader's card. You can get that if you ever were a student at Oxford University, or have a student or ex-student vouch for you. There is the assumption that anyone who ever attended the University is sufficiently upstanding that they can vouch for anyone.

That is how I got a reader's card. Once you have it you can replace it in perpetuity.

It is a while since I was last in there, and my current card has expired. Must get to the library office and get it renewed.

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Old 24th Apr 2019, 12:44 pm   #12
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Default Re: International Marconi Day at Oxford Science Museum

Thanks for that update and access info chaps. There's a couple of things related to South Coast Marconi activity that I keep meaning to look into. There's a content list on line but I think a personal visit might be in order-maybe accompanied by a pint in the Bear! I didn't know that the "Bod" had a new Exhibition space of it's own at the Weston so that will be a trip into the City the next time I'm in Bicester hovering between North and South and not close to the famous Tourist Shopping "Experience"-it's that all right! I recall that initial joint exhibition/opening ceremony you mention Paul and tried to get there but [as often] the dates didn't work.

My mother and Father-in-Law contributed a great deal to Oxford [despite being from Derbyshire originally]. He's now deceased but was a Director of Social Services and she retired from the NHS [going out with a motorbike ride] at the age of 82! I tell people that it was her [really] that started things up in 1948. People of principle in Public Service-imagine that! I'm sure she would be able to find me an ex-student nominator-probaly a distinguished one.

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Old 24th Apr 2019, 1:25 pm   #13
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Default Re: International Marconi Day at Oxford Science Museum

You only need a Bodleian reader's card to use it as a research library. The exhibitions in both the main library and the Weston are open to the general public. However, there are some historic reading rooms such as Duke Humfrey's Library which aren't normally accessible to non-readers other than as part of occasional guided tours.
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Old 24th Apr 2019, 2:08 pm   #14
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Default Re: International Marconi Day at Oxford Science Museum

Indeed. It is the research library I have often used as part of the things I do as a technology consultant. It has the periodicals (or more correctly "serials") that I need, depending on the consultancy work I'm doing.

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Old 27th Apr 2019, 5:56 pm   #15
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Default Re: International Marconi Day at Oxford Science Museum

I visited the Marconi Exhibition earlier today, and found it quite interesting. Whilst I had heard of, and seen pictures of, many of the items on display, it's the first time I'd seen them for real. I also had a chat with Ken from ODARS (Oxford & District Amateur Radio Society) who said that they had been able to work stations from as far away as, I think, Canada, using a 50watt transmitter located in the museum basement, and an aerial outside the building. Were any other forum members at the exhibition? I was there from about 2.15 till 3.15. Apart from the exhibits, what left an impression on me was the several flights of stairs leading to/from the basement. Going down them wasn't too difficult, but going back up was hard on my 76 year old legs!!
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Old 27th Apr 2019, 10:34 pm   #16
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Default Re: International Marconi Day at Oxford Science Museum

The Marconi collection is lucky to have survived. When the "New Marconi" was going down the plughole and looking to sell anything of value to satisfy its creditors, the story put out to the press was that the building housing the collection was in a bad state and the collection was likely to suffer deterioration. Odd, as it was housed in a purpose-built, heated, building at the Marconi Research Centre where I was based, and it had looked fine to me the last time I had visited it!

Princess Elettra was interviewed in a Radio 4 news programme that had an item on the prospective sale, and she didn't mince her words, accusing the company of deliberately lying. I did record the programme and later gave a copy on cassette to the company archivist, so it should be in the collection somewhere. The company got one of the auctioneers (Sotheby's I think, possibly Christie's) to catalogue the entire collection in readiness for selling its individual items to the highest bidders, which would have resulted in its dispersal. Apparently one wealthy American expressed interest in acquiring the collection of original Marconigram hand-written message forms relating to the Titanic that he was proposing to distribute to guests at a large party he was organising. There were/are several filing cabinet drawers full of them.

The trustee, whose whose name I unfortunately cannot recall, delved into the archives to see who actually owned them. She unearthed documentary evidence that the bulk of the collection was actually the personal property of Marconi himself and not the company. Therefore the company had no right to sell the collection as it did not belong to them. It is entirely thanks to her diligence that the Marconi collection exists as an entity today. She occupied the room next to me for about a year until she left on maternity leave, and the collection was transferred to Oxford shortly after.

GEC never made much of the Marconi archives, although they were pleased to allow anyone to visit on request (such as parties from local schools, who were apparently fascinated by the working spark transmitter and receiver). I made several visits when I was working at Baddow. There were rows of cabinets on which the exhibits were laid out, with only a few of the rarer items such as early valves, being locked in glass cabinets, and the archivist was always pleased to open up items so you could inspect the inner workings, and even handle some of them yourself. Happy days!

A copy of a poster dating from circa 1990 that was on noticeboards around the site is attached.
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File Type: pdf Marconi Archives 1990 .pdf (67.1 KB, 45 views)

Last edited by emeritus; 27th Apr 2019 at 10:45 pm.
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Old 28th Apr 2019, 1:44 pm   #17
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Default Re: International Marconi Day at Oxford Science Museum

Thanks very much for that further update Emeritus. Pretty much what I assumed but it's good to hear from someone so directly positioned within events. I do recall a general air of incredulity when the sale announcement was made. If Marconi had found personal support in the US, as opposed to the British Post Office, his archive would now be in American hands but in the Smithsonian [rather than a private collection] I suspect.


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Old 29th Apr 2019, 10:32 pm   #18
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Default Re: International Marconi Day at Oxford Science Museum

Just remembered that the trustee told me that, when the film "Titanic" was being made, they found that the plans supplied by Harland and Wolff showed a blank at the position of the radio room, because the radio apparatus and operators had been provided by the Marconi company. They had approached Marconi for info, and the archive's curators had been very helpful in providing access to the relevant information and contemporary equipment at no cost. The producers were so happy that they had offered Marconi a cut of the profits. Marconi had declined their kind offer, saying that they were a large international company and weren't bothered with such trifles. As things turned out, a cut of the profits of such a high grossing film would probably had made a significant contribution their assets had they accepted.
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