Sunday, 12 October 2014

A2SN in Belfast

Jayne Hutchinson of PRONI with John King
 of the RCHS at the reception in the opulent
surroundings of the SS Nomadic
On 8th September, 2014, A2SN’s first one day workshop was hosted by The Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI), based in the Titanic Quarter of Belfast. We are delighted to have been able to work with PRONI. Meeting in one of Ireland's foremost public archives and having outside, not one, but two, major municipal transport artefacts was a double first for the A2SN series of workshops.

We aimed to bring together people from a range of interests and backgrounds as we could and share the ideas, archives and techniques we have in common. As I said in my introduction to the day, We will learn much that we did not know and, if this workshop goes as our others have, make connections and find synergies in disciplines and subjects we have not dreamed of before. The breadth achieved was indeed excellent and the result was a fascinating workshop. 

Dawn Livingstone – CEO of Waterways
Ireland addressing the workshop
37 people attended including three delegates and two speakers who travelled from the mainland. Topics covered were the development of an interactive archive for Waterways Ireland, the use of tar in road building with actual tar boiling machinery on display outside the building, the social and political history to be found in Railway Records, an introduction to the Short Brothers’ Photographic Archive held at PRONI, the development of Belfast Corporation Transport from trams via trolley buses to buses, the history of the SS Nomadic and the use of archives in business history.  Colin Divall, Professor of Railway Studies from York University, closed the presentations by providing an excellent keynote which tied together the whole theme of transport and its uses by us as consumers.

The imposing front elevation of The
Public Record Office of Northern Ireland.
The bow view of SS Nomadic in the in
Belfast’s historic Hamilton Dock
, only a few
yards from PRONI.
The workshop was really friendly and relaxed. The exciting buzz of conversation at each break held promise of links being made.  Dawn Livingstone, Chief Executive of Waterways Ireland, sought me out towards the end to say that she and her colleague had made a large number of useful contacts. Dr Kevin Tennent of the York Mangement School made links with Belfast City Transport Department and they are hoping to run a research project based on the City Transport Archive. At the end of the workshop I was approached by a delegate Robert Davison, the Liaison Officer of the British Transport Police History Group and we are busy forming networking links, which I think will be most useful to A2SN. 

After the workshop The SS Nomadic Charitable Trust hosted a drinks reception and a wonderful tour of their ship. The Nomadic was the tender to the Titanic and is the last remaining White Star Line ship in the world. She has been restored to her original glory and sits in Belfast’s historic Hamilton Dock; only a few yards from PRONI.

Professor Colin Divall and Grahame Boyes, Vice President of the
RCHS examine the Tar Boiler and Shelvoke and Dewrey Lorry
owned by Peter Johnston
The workshop was the culmination of months of work by staff from our hosts PRONI and ourselves in A2SN. We particularly have to thank Jayne  Hutchinson from PRONI who worked tirelessly to ensure that the workshop was a success. We also must thank PRONI for sponsoring the tea and coffee for the workshop.  We are extremely grateful to Cearuillin ni Luachrain and her staff from the SS Nomadic for allowing us to use their historic vessel for the reception.
Dr Peter Rigney of the Irish Railway
 Record Society speaking at the workshop.
The stern view of SS Nomadic in the in
Belfast’s historic Hamilton Dock.