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Brunel Beer Bottles


2006 marked 200 years since Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s birth. Amongst a Bristol-wide celebration of Brunel’s life and work, including theatre productions, exhibitions, art installations, talks and lectures, a range of souvenirs were produced and sold – including Brunel themed water and beer. ‘I.K.B’, ‘Brunel 200 IPA’, and ‘Brunale’ beers and both sparkling and still ‘Fizzambard’ spring water were produced and sold in 2006, allowing Bristol residents and visitors to raise an appropriately filled glass in celebration of Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

These unusual souvenirs have been chosen for display in Being Brunel, the new museum dedicated to IK Brunel, opening onsite in March 2018.They are just a few of a wide variety of exciting objects which tell Brunel’s extraordinary story and demonstrate his powerful legacy.

To prepare these bottles for display, we chose to remove their contents. Full bottles of liquid could pose a risk to other objects on display, and the contents of the plastic bottles was causing them to distort. To make certain the bottles will look their best for display in Being Brunel, they needed to be emptied in as safe a way as possible, with the utmost care taken to protect the potentially vulnerable paper labels, fragile glass bottles, and easily dented metal bottle tops.

First, the bottles were covered with a protective cloak to prevent liquids damaging the paper labels. Caps were carefully removed. Placing a coin on top of each beer bottle before opening allowed the bottle cap to be removed without it being dented, scratched or damaged, while the plastic bottle tops of the ‘Fizzambard’ water bottles were removed carefully by hand. The liquid inside was carefully poured out, and water was poured into the bottles through a funnel to wash out any remaining residues of the eleven year old beer and sparkling water. Each bottle top was placed in a labelled bag, ensuring they will be correctly replaced when the objects go on display in March next year.

After all five bottles were dry, they were photographed for the museum’s collections database, carefully re-packaged, and are now stored in the archive vault, ready to go on display next year! 

Author: Aoife Kurta, Documentation Assistant