BT corporate archives to be put online

Nearly half a million pictures, as well as video and company files, will be available online next year in a £1m project run by Coventry University

BT's corporate archive of images and documents is to be digitised and put online.

Bt videophone image

BT's corporate archive, including pictures, videos and company files, will be made available online next year. Image credit: BT

Starting in 1846 with the incorporation of the Electric Telegraph Company, and categorised by UNESCO as being of international importance, the online archive will be freely available to the public for non-commercial use.

Called New Connections, the project will be managed by Coventry University, in partnership with BT and The National Archives, with an award of around £745,000 from JISC, the UK's national education and research IT support organisation. The remainder of the funding — around £250,000 — will come from BT and Coventry University themselves, and the project is due to be complete by mid-2013.

"A fully searchable digital archive of BT documents and photographs detailing the history of British Telecommunications will exist on the web with mobile access, crowd-sourcing space and interactive teaching projects," a spokesperson told ZDNet UK on Friday. "The project includes a sustainability report to ensure longevity and public access. It is envisaged that the site will be supported by BT so that access remains free for teaching and general use."

The online archive will contain almost 450,000 scanned photographs, research records between 1879 and 1981, and files from 1868 onwards. Expected to be at least 500 terabytes — 0.5 petabytes — in size, the archive will be accessible through the JISC programme portal and the EU-funded cultural portal Europeana, as well as its own site. The project is currently evaluating two platforms and search technologies, one open source and one proprietary, said the spokesperson. 

The physical archive from which New Connections will be drawn is kept in a purpose-built repository in Holborn Telephone Exchange, London. A limited number of images and videos are already available online.

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