By BT

Over 1,000 historic BT Archive images from the 1860s onwards can now be downloaded on the Internet thanks to a new online photo gallery, called Telefocus. It’s the first time the public will have access to the images online.

The photo gallery offers a fascinating insight into history of telecommunications through images, including the oldest image of a Birmingham telegraph lineman wearing a top hat – which he used to keep his tools in – circa 1860 and a photo of World War II telephone operators in tin hats at the Bishopsgate switchboard exchange.

Professor Jack Lohman, Director of the Museum of London, said: “I’m pleased to be involved with Telefocus – BT Archives’ image gallery. Telefocus charts not only the progress and development of BT as a company but also of society as a whole, particularly in terms of how we all communicate with each other. As such, it’s an extremely valuable and informative resource and it’s fantastic that these images are now easily accessible to the public online.”

Photos from the gallery include; 1860 – Birmingham telegraph lineman with tools in his top hat 1920s – An engineering gang hauling cable out of a headquarters building in London 1942 – World War II – Telephone operators in tin hats at Bishopsgate exchange 1936 – Jane Cane, the first voice of the Speaking Clock 1982 – Buzby in a bowler hat before privatisation 1983 – A payphone in a boat, delivered to a remote Scottish Island

The Lord Chancellor designated BT Archives as an ‘official place of deposit’ for Public Records prior to BT’s privatisation in 1984. BT Archives is also a partner in Connected Earth, BT’s innovative collaboration with some of the UK’s leading national and independent museums, which gives the best possible care and access to BT's collections of historic artefacts, linked by the award winning Connected Earth website.

David Hay, BT’s head of heritage and corporate memory, said: “As the world’s oldest communications company and guardian of the UK’s telecommunications legacy, we recognise and attach great value and importance to our long and rich heritage. We are particularly proud to open up further accessibility to these fascinating images through this new online image gallery. In doing so we are opening up BT’s heritage to a whole new audience”.

As a result of this diverse collection, experts have chosen to explain why the images that make up part of the Archives are so significant. Social history specialist, Professor Jack Lohman, Director of the Museum of London, Dr. Tilly Blyth, Curator of Computing and Information at the Science Museum whose specialty is telecommunications and design expert Professor Teal Triggs, Professor of Graphic Design have been chosen as leaders in their respective fields.

Each expert has selected their own personal top 10 images from the BT Telefocus photo gallery, explaining why these images are so significant in illustrating the progress and innovation within their respective fields. These selections and their rationales can be viewed on www.bt.com/telefocus10 Members of the public can also upload their own 10 favourite images onto the website.

About BT Archives BT’s commitment to its heritage is published in its Heritage Policy (www.bt.com/heritage) adopted in 2004. BT is the only major company to have made such a public commitment to safeguarding its past and future heritage. The key features of our approach are to maintain historical documents and records within the company, under the management of BT Archives (www.bt.com/archives), and to promote access to our physical artefacts online and at museums across the UK through BT's Connected Earth initiative (www.connected-earth.com). BT Archives is open to the public on Tuesday and Thursdays each week by appointment at Holborn Telephone Exchange, 268-270 High Holborn, London WC1 V 7EE. Descriptions of the archive collections can be found on our  online catalogue at www.bt.com/archivesonline