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Brunel Institute officially opens its doors

A world-class library, archive and education centre – known as the Brunel Institute – opened it doors for the first time. The Brunel Institute sits alongside Brunel’s ss Great Britain, the great Victorian engineer’s masterpiece and only surviving ship. Admission to the Brunel Institute, which is also managed by the ss Great Britain Trust, is free of charge to all.

Staff and volunteers anticipate the Brunel Institute, with its National Brunel Archive and David MacGregor Library, to appeal to researchers and enthusiasts, those with a passion for the Brunel’s work and for maritime history, and local residents.

Rare items include the engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s drawing instruments, his diaries, and photographs of the Clifton Suspension Bridge during its early build.

An innovative collaboration with the University of Bristol sees the important Brunel holdings of that institution also joining the Institute to form the National Brunel Archive.

The Brunel Institute holds around 45,000 items, including 4,500 maritime, engineering and ship-building books; 2,000 ship plans; 100 ship models; 35,000 maritime photographs; passenger and crew diaries and letters; 50 films; and the Lloyds Register dating back to the 1700s, and the Illustrated London  News.

As well as the Brunel Archive, specialist maritime David MacGregor Library, the Viridor Theatre and Great Western Room, which will be available for venue hire, there are important and popular education programmes ranging from ‘Sea Hear’ storytelling and ‘Future Brunels’ for teenagers, to the ‘Brunel Badge’ and  schemes.

The Brunel Institute allows the Trust to encourage education at every level and to provide an invaluable resource and service to researchers as well as those with a passing interest in maritime history and in Brunel, schoolchildren and the under-fives.

“We are delighted with what has been achieved and the support we have received from our partners, especially the University of Bristol and the Clifton Suspension Bridge Trust, our generous funders and the people of Bristol. It is only fitting that Professor Winston has agreed to officially open the Brunel Institute, as he shares our passion for Brunel’s ss Great Britain and for science and engineering.”

For further details, including details of identification required to use the library, please visit