Building Modernity: Britain, Railways, and the Hispanophone World

This event is in partnership with the National Railway Museum

The National Railway Museum is undertaking a seven year, £50 million, redesign of its entire site. The ambition of this new Vision 2025 project is to tell new stories, brought forth from our archives through detailed research, that challenge and fascinate its visitors.

One of the untapped strengths of the archive is the wealth of material relating to British investment, management, and consultancy of railways abroad. From early attempts to build railways in Portugal in the 1850s through to the near-total influence British engineers and funders exerted on the railways of Chile, Argentina, and Brazil in the early-mid twentieth century, there are many varied stories to draw out here. Currently the NRM lacks not only the linguistic ability to tackle these sources (some of which are in Spanish) but also the contextual Iberian and Latin American knowledge to understand, say, the true significance of the Mexican Locomotive Model of 1910 it holds and how this relates to the modernising agenda of Porfirio Diaz. By examining these sources and applying my linguistic skills and contextual knowledge, I will help the Museum draw out engaging stories to tell with the new exhibition.

This content will inform the Vision 2025, which is expected to encourage a visitor rise of up to one million a year. Museum visitors are a very mixed audience, with a very
high percentage of families from the local area but also across Britain, rail enthusiasts of all nationalities, and international visitors from a broad range of countries. As the NRM is a
museum without enclosed galleries, there is the potential that the permanent exhibition this research informs could be in front of up to 100% of visitors. The research will inform the
permanent offer on the floor, not expected to change for the subsequent c.25 years after installation.Seminar attendance is usually c.50 and is a mixed audience of academics, museum staff, and members of the public.

Awarded

£ 305

Lead Student

Joel Baker - University of Sheffield

Other student organisers

Dr Oli Betts - Research Fellow at the National Railway Museum