EIRA supports collaboration with the Essex Record Office and Marconi Photographic Archive


The Essex Record Office (ERO), the University of Essex and the University of East Anglia have been awarded an EIRA Innovation Voucher for a collaborative project that will support the creation of a digital strategy that will enhance public engagement with the Marconi photographic archive, held by the ERO.

The archive is of national and international significance, reflecting the central role that the Marconi company played in the history of Chelmsford, known as ‘the birthplace of radio’, and the world beyond. The company was pioneering in wireless technology and has left a lasting legacy in shaping our modern world and day-to-day lives. From radio to navigation, Marconi’s inventions have enabled the world of communication that we experience today. The archive also highlights the contribution to innovation and the application of technology that the county of Essex has made over the years.

The Innovation Voucher grant has been awarded for the organisations to define a creative and innovative strategy for enhancing public engagement with these important archives using digitally enabled tools and methods.  The project will develop a strategic framework for public engagement that builds upon current usage of the archive, but elevates it to incorporate new and innovative technology, such as augmented reality and immersive experiences.


Cllr. Susan Barker, Essex County Council Cabinet Member for Customer, Communities, Culture and Corporate says:

“We are really pleased to have this opportunity, made possible through the EIRA Innovation Voucher grant, to benefit from the knowledge and insight provided by the University of Essex and UEA. It will not only help us to share and celebrate the contribution of many Essex residents who worked for the Marconi company in shaping our modern world, but will also help the Essex Record Office in considering how to engage audiences in new ways with many other fascinating historic collections in the future.”


Dr Andrew Priest,  University of Essex,  Head of  History Department, says:

‘The Department of History at the University of Essex is delighted to be involved in this ground-breaking, EIRA-funded collaboration with Essex Record Office, the University of East Anglia and BT archives. It is fitting that this project about cutting-edge digital innovations to increase public engagement with archives is focused on the Marconi collections, which highlight Essex’s central place in the development of technology in the twentieth century. This project will enable people to engage with an important and fascinating aspect of our past but we also hope that it will help other archives open up their collections to new audiences’


Anne Archer, BT, Head of Heritage and Archives

“We’re delighted to be a partner of this project, sharing ideas and collaborating to enhance the way that people engage with archives. BT Heritage & Archives holds a rich digitised collection – for us, it’s an important way of connecting people to our history and finding new audiences. Recent developments in 5G and cutting-edge technology have created new opportunities for archives and cultural organisations. The outputs of this project will help to uncover some of these.”


Both university partners are excited to be working together with the ERO and BT to explore the opportunities provided by digital technologies and creative content to enhance public engagement with this nationally important archive. This collaboration combines academic expertise from both universities with BT’s Heritage and Archive team based in Holborn, London. These experts will be working with a PhD student who will be undertaking extensive desk research, which will provide the basis for developing a strategy to guide future planning and investment.

The successful delivery of the project will provide a strong foundation on which to explore and develop the ERO’s strategy in supporting community engagement with and use of the archives.

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