Porthcurno telegraph museum wins vital upkeep grant
The importance of a Cornish museum's unique collection of objects from the dawn of international telecommunications has been recognised with an £82,000 grant towards its upkeep.
Housed at the Porthcurno's award-winning telegraph museum, they include hand-made instruments, cable sections from the Victorian era, early wirelesses, ledgers, nautical charts, maps and other equipment.
The Arts Council award of £82,000 will pay for the preservation of several key objects and a full redisplay of the collection.
Collections manager Charlotte Dando said: "Many of our objects are unique and date back more than 150 years – and all have specific preservation needs. This award will fund conservation-grade cases to show off these beautiful and important objects and ensure they can be admired by future generations."
Among them is Sir William Thompson's siphon recorder, which was used to record signals sent via the Porthcurno to Bombay telegraph cable, laid in 1870. Only two such instruments survive – one in Cornwall and its twin at the Science Museum in London. Replacing more rudimentary technology, the siphon recorder revolutionised international communications.
Museum learning and interpretation manager Larissa Paver said: "The objects in our collection tell a very human story. They show us how people used technology to overcome physical boundaries and communicate with others, sometimes on the other side of the globe.
"Redisplaying these objects will allow more people to explore this amazing heritage and discover how it relates to their own lives."
Porthcurno occupies a unique position in world history as the most strategically important communications site in mainland Britain. From the first undersea cable laid in 1870, the centre grew to house the world's largest and busiest submarine telegraph station. It was also home to the Cable and Wireless Training College, which was regarded as the world's leading training institution for telegraph technology.
Some 14 cables linking Porthcurno to the British Empire used a binary code technology – a forerunner of the internet – and the network proved of vital strategic importance during the Second World War. Following the closure of the telegraph station in 1970 and the training school in 1993, the PK Trust was formed to run Porthcurno Telegraph Museum.