In 1957 Imperial College was celebrating its 50 year half century. Many events took place that year, none of them were recorded visually and only some recorded onto audio tape or disc. One item that does survive is a presentation given by Dr S.W. Smith on the History of the Royal School of Mines up to that time. When I digitised the tape a few years ago I heard one or two things that stood out.
There is mention of attending a lecture in 1897 and the astonishing thing that he heard suggested. And on 13th March 1901 he was present at the RSM half-century celebrations, the formal dinner for which, was delayed due to the death of Queen Victoria. Fascinating to hear a college alumni talking about what was happening in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
This is a quick and extra post to celebrate the 125 years of the Imperial Institute. There are many references within the blog to both the Imperial Institute and the Queen’s Tower, some of which I have linked here. However, today in 1893 is when Queen Victoria attended the official opening ceremony. These actual photos show the scene just prior to her arrival with all the flags and bunting displayed around the building’s entrance.
A special piece of music was written for the day by Sir Arthur Sullivan and was entitled Imperial March which is not to be confused with anything relating to Star Wars for which there is music of the same name. Below is a YouTube link to that piece of music, which was first performed 125 years ago this very day. In the photo over on the left you can see Queen Victoria. If you click the image you can see it full size. Look below the canopy and you will see her, still dressed all in black and sitting on a chair.
Of course, all that remains of the buildings is what we now call the Queen’s Tower. The bells of the now free-standing tower are still rung on special occasions. Even while the building was slowly going into disuse it was made famous in a brief sequence in an Ealing Comedy, The Titfield Thunderbolt (1953), where a shot is clearly seen of the steps from the building’s main entrance. The building was not actually featured as the institute but rather as a ‘museum’.
Recently, whilst rearranging the shelves of archive videos I came across something I’d forgotten about. In 2002, Imperial had honoured Senior Minister of Singapore Lee Kuan Yew (in recognition of his promotion of international trade and industry, and development of science and engineering study initiatives with the UK) by appointing him a Fellow of the College at the Commemoration Day held at the Royal Albert Hall.
Because this was a significant event, college had hired a company that occasionally provided a large video screen and cameras to help people see events in the Royal Albert Hall. We attended the event to get some background video shots and to also see what effect this new idea had on the ceremony. The previous night we had attended the first ever Commemoration Eve Dinner held at the Natural History Museum, where he gave the keynote address (seen left), we recorded and used that in full. College did not need his Commemoration Day speech recorded because we had the one from the previous day.
However, as this was the first time that cameras had been covering a Commemoration Day, I felt that this was unique enough to ask the company to make video recordings (right) of both morning and afternoon sessions. College had already indicated that they had no use for any of the footage, but, by being a ‘first’ I disagreed. So, both morning and afternoon events were recorded and promptly put into our archive collection and there they have sat for all of these 16 years.
Let’s see the first ever fully recorded Commemoration Day sessions from 23 October 2002 which are now available on line for the first time.