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Our Story

Connected Earth is the story of our on-going quest to communicate better. From the first, simple messages to today’s sophisticated global communications, Connected Earth tells of a unique human achievement. The ability to communicate effectively, irrespective of distance and the barriers of time and volume, is one of the most significant drivers of mankind's evolution and will enable unsurpassed progress in the 21st century.

Connected Earth is a web based museum of communication, underpinned by a series of major physical collections, distributed among a network of museums around the UK.

Founded by BT, Connected Earth is operated by the Connected Earth partners - BT and the museums who have taken custody of the Connected Earth collections.

Connected Earth is a £6 million investment by BT, to promote the widest possible access to its collection of historical artefacts, while ensuring proper standards of care for the collection. The concept of a genuinely national, distributed collection supported by a website has been recognised as an innovative model for the responsible management of a corporate heritage collection.

To find out more about any aspect of Connected Earth or to give feedback on this website, please email connectedearth@bt.com.

Milestone projects

When BT was privatised in 1984, its assets included over 40,000 historic artefacts, some dating back to the mid 19th century, plus thousands of documents and items of ephemera - the UK's most comprehensive physical record of the development of communications.

BT maintains public access to its documentary heritage through BT Archives, but by 2000 - following the closure of the BT Museum in 1997 - the artefact collections had been unavailable to the public for several years. BT had always accepted an obligation to preserve these assets, but it was felt a stand-alone museum could not provide the level of public access which the collection deserved. The idea of creating a museum on the internet was settled on as providing a workable solution that would optimise the future management of - and access to - the artefacts.

This, supported by distributing the best of the physical collections to a network of dedicated galleries, sited within established UK museums, allowed each of these partner museum to tell a different part of the story of communications.

This is the model that resulted in Connected Earth: a genuinely national, distributed collection

  • endowed by BT, but managed in partnership with museum professionals
  • creating UK-wide access for research and interpretation
  • enabling the engineering, social and economic history of telecommunications to be shown and related
  • ensuring key artefacts are preserved for future generations

To find out more about the museums which are involved in Connected Earth go to the Partner Museums section.

Connected Earth is a £6 million investment by BT, to promote the widest possible access to its collection of historical communication artifacts, while ensuring proper standards of care for the collection.

Timeline
March 2002

New gallery opened at Goonhilly Satellite Earth Station- Enhanced gallery opened at Porthcurno telegraph Museum

April 2002

Connected Earth launched by Tessa Jowell, Secretary of State forCulture and Sport, at an event at the BT Tower in London hosted by BTchairman, Sir Christopher Bland. Play the launch video and view the transcript

April 2002

Enhanced national telephone kiosk collection re-opened at AvoncroftMuseum of Historic Buildings.

May 2002

Prince Michael of Kent opened the new purpose-built Connected Earthgallery at Amberley Working Museum.

June 2002

Connected Earth website goes live - Alison Taubman, Connected Earth curator at The National Museums ofScotland appointed (a permanent position endorsed by BT).

April 2003

Chris Chilvers, Connected Earth research fellow at the Science Museum, London appointed (a three year position funded by BT).

October 2003

Sir Christopher Bland opens Communicate! - the new Connected Earthgallery at The National Museums of Scotland.

August 2004

BT publishes its heritage policy, detailingthe eight commitments it has made to look after its heritage.

fun and games

Can you beat our games? Explode equipment to see what's inside, hear the changing sounds of telecommunications, see how telecommunications designs have changed over time or send an e-postacard.

what's on

The UK's first permanent gallery dedicated to the history of information and communication technologies opens in the new Information Age gallery at London’s Science Museum.

audio history

Take a trip down memory lane with extracts of the interviews which have been recorded as part of the Connected Earth oral history programme.

featured story

100 years of automatic switching!
In 1912 the GPO installed Britain's first automatic telephone exchange in Epsom.

Discover the early days of the telephone...