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Library is pride of ICE

In February it was announced that the ICE’s Library, Archives and Works of Art collection had been awarded designated status by the Museums, Library and Archives Council.

This national recognition is over due, as ICE members have known for many years the library is a treasure store of information.

It was set up in 1819 at a time when there were no engineering libraries in Britain for civilians, and the Royal Engineers School had only been set up in 1812. Through the 19th century it was the largest technical library in Britain, the great national and academic collections being largely 20th century creations.

After a 100 years the then chief executive of the ICE, Tudsberry Tudsberry noted: “It has been the care of the Institution to form a reference library containing all literature relating to the profession, and deemed to be worthy of permanent retention. This library … is in its particular character unrivalled in its completeness.”

The care with which the ICE’s collections were developed is at the heart of our successful application. The award embraces not just the library, but our archives and works of art – recognition that the ICE owns the most significant collection of engineering portraits in the world. The most recent addition to that is the portrait of John Padmore, presented by a descendant.

Padmore is the early 18th century engineer who designed Coombe Down Tramway for a quarry near Bath, and Sea Mills Dock, Bristol (1712). He was also well known as a designer of cranes, a model of which features in his portrait.

The future of libraries evidently lies in their exploitation of web resources. The Japan Society of Civil Engineers (JSCE) is looking at its library’s future developments. As at the ICE more and more work is via the internet. In 2008 JSCE had over 180,000 hits on its web pages. It is looking at making its Proceedings freely available, not just to members, but more generally.

It is developing its own search engine to enable members to identify relevant material. Surprisingly relatively little of their collection is in English – in European engineering libraries this is not the case. It will be interesting to see how their services develop.

  • Finally, apologies to members unable to access some of our services recently. The ICE servers have been moved, causing some interruptions. Please contact library@ice.org. uk if you still have problems in accessing e-resources.  

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