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The collection

Being Brunel will give unprecedented access to amazing objects from the National Brunel Collection of over 14,000 items (from the University of Bristol Brunel Collection, the Clive Richards Brunel Collection and the SS Great Britain Trust Collection), all of which are currently being cared for inside the Archive Vault of the Brunel Institute here at Brunel's SS Great Britain.

Most of this outstanding Collection, which is of international importance, will go on display for the first time ever, alongside the largest and most significant object – his ‘finest ship in the world’ – the SS Great Britain.

I.K. Brunel’s cigar case

Brunel's last cigar

Containing one ‘last’ cigar still in place and stamped ‘I.K.B. Athenaeum Club Pall Mall’, this black leather case is an object very much of its time and one that reflects Brunel’s passion for cigars and fine things.

A member of the Athenaeum Club from 1830, Brunel wrote of his membership and visits to the club in his diaries.

The cigar case is a very personal and intimate possession as well as a reminder of the iconic photograph of Brunel in front of the launching chains of the SS Great Eastern, smoking a cigar in his muddy trousers and boots; a man of action and determination.

(Clive Richards Brunel Collection)

Thames Tunnel ‘peep show’

Original Thames Tunnel Peepshow merchandise sold to celebrate opening of the Thames Tunnel

The Thames Tunnel saw Brunel working alongside and for his father, Sir Marc, in what was a very challenging and instructive time in his early career.

Published in German, this decorative item depicts two scenes within a series of hand coloured concertina lithographs.

(Clive Richards Brunel Collection)

Drawing of a horse by I.K. Brunel, age 6

Original illustration of a horse by a young Isambard Kingdom Brunel aged 6

The drawing, which depicts what appears to be a rocking horse, is utterly charming and very detailed.

No doubt under the influence of his father Marc, it reveals the confident but delicate hand of a 6 year old Brunel, in 1812, already studying the world around him.

This is a fascinating insight into Brunel’s childhood, his early influences and observational skills, all of which became vital tools for his future engineering career.

(SS Great Britain Trust Collection)

I.K. Brunel's Sketchbook 1852-1854

Original sketchbook used by Brunel

The sketchbooks kept by Brunel offer an insight into the mind of the great engineer.

The early 1850s see the conception and planning of the SS Great Eastern and the sketchbook dedicated to this project is filled with ideas, drawings and calculations.

This is a download of his vigorous, detailed and highly visual thinking process, laid out on graph paper in ink and graphite.

(University of Bristol Brunel Collection)