As a history graduate, I’m always looking for an excuse to visit Lizzie and our university archive, but I also see it as an important part of my role as a Marketing Officer. We need to tell the story of our institution to attract the right staff and students, to justify our funding and to communicate who we are as a community.
The University of Bath was established at such an exciting time. As a child of the 1960s we are part of a great generation of institutions who opened up higher education to more people than ever before. I’m lucky to work in the Faculty of Engineering & Design, which has always been central to the University’s story and pioneered some of the teaching methods that make our students some of the most employable in the country today.
The Department of Mechanical Engineering’s annual Design and Project Exhibition spans a history of over 54 years. It actually predates the Claverton Down campus. During exhibition day our third and fourth year students showcase their group and individual projects to family, friends and industry partners. For me, this marks the moment our students take a step towards joining the professional engineering community, even though graduation and chartership are still a way down the road. So this day is a time to look forward to all the amazing achievements our students will have in their careers, but also a chance to reflect on our history and celebrate our innovations.
There are plenty of photos and video of the event over the years, including Professor Joseph Black cutting the ribbon to inaugurate the very first exhibition back in 1965. To celebrate the day we try to release a special piece of content on social media and our internal TV screens. We often use something from the archive to highlight the age and heritage of the event and to congratulate our students on their work. Each year, the exhibition starts with the Joseph Black Keynote lecture. So, for 2019 I decided to make a short photo video explaining who Joseph Black was and introducing this year’s speaker, TV presenter and departmental graduate Rob Bell.
Joseph Black was one of the founding members of our university and established some of the principles we still stand by today: the benefits of bringing together different strands of engineering, the industrial placement year and the importance of design. The short video features archive images from important points in our history, as well as more recent photos.
It’s amazing to see these moments captured in black and white, but it’s also a little disheartening to see the lack of diversity in these early years. This is why it’s so important to look back, celebrate and scrutinise, and then start the conversation of how we want our future to look. Bringing out these pieces from the archive should be a way of remembering who we were, explaining who we are and talking about who we want to be. It’s all part of our story and there’s plenty more still to write.