Communicating Connections: Sharing the Heritage of Marconi’s Wireless World is an oral history project by Essex Record Office, exploring the history and heritage of the Marconi Company and its legacy in Chelmsford and Essex more broadly. The Marconi Company was started by Italian inventor Mr Guglielmo Marconi and opened its first factory in Hall Street, Chelmsford, in 1898.
The Company was a world leader in wireless technology, with Marconi equipment being used on ships, notably the Titanic, and in the first live entertainment broadcast by Dame Nellie Melba, live from Chelmsford in 1920.
Communicating Connections ran from August 2020 until June 2022 and has recorded over 30 oral histories with people connected to the Marconi Company. The project trained 12 volunteers in oral history interviewing, exhibition writing, and podcasting.
In addition to these new stories, Essex Record Office has digitised over 50,000 photographs from the Marconi Photographic Unit which were previously held at the New Street Site until its closure and redevelopment in the early 2000s. Over 35 hours of historic sound and video material from the Essex Sound and Video Archive has also been recently digitised and will be made publicly available.
We worked with volunteers to create podcasts and an exhibition to share these stories which can be accessed online via this website.
PROJECT COORDINATOR & ORAL HISTORIAN
Laura is a freelance oral historian and project manager and has coordinated Communicating Connections from the start in Spring 2020. She has overseen the recruitment of volunteers, recording of oral histories, and creation of the exhibition and podcast.
"I've really enjoyed working on this project with Essex Record Office over the last 2 years. We've faced challenges and national lockdowns, but some of the stories we have recorded and shared are an amazing testimony to how much Marconi's was loved in Chelmsford and Essex."
SOUND ARCHIVIST AT ESSEX RECORD OFFICE
Kate O’Neill is the Sound Archivist at the Essex Record Office. She joined the ERO in September 2021, stepping into the shoes of Sarah-Joy Maddeaux, who helped set up the Communicating Connections project. Kate has been working with the ERO’s digitisation engineer, Richard Voller, to digitise recordings relating to Marconi held in the Essex Sound and Video Archive (ESVA)
"I’m relatively new to the project, but I'm looking forward to making the newly-recorded oral histories available on the ERO’s catalogue, Essex Archives Online."
ARCHIVE & COLLECTIONS LEAD AT ESSEX RECORD OFFICE
Richard is the Archives and Collections Lead at Essex Record Office, overseeing how new material from Communicating Connections fits with the existing archive. He worked closely with Laura to engage volunteers and local people in the sharing of new stories.
"The pandemic made it really challenging to record the oral histories, and I've particularly enjoyed seeing the team overcome this to create a lasting record of the memories of Marconi's in Chelmsford."
Working freelance since 2014, I support museums, arts organisations archaeological units and heritage sites to develop, deliver and evaluate projects and programmes to support learning and engagement. She has seen Communicating Connections grow from an idea into a reality, and has worked with Essex Record Office on previous heritage projects.
"It’s been great chatting to all the volunteers who have taken part and the people who contributed their stories. I also really enjoyed talking to people who came to see the exhibition when it was in High Chelmer Shopping Centre and listening to their memories of the Marconi factory- several people talked about ‘clocking off’ time and how the nearby streets were suddenly full of bicycles, it must have been quite a sight!