New exhibitions, new experiences, and a new café await visitors at the freshly refurbished Telegraph Museum Porthcurno when it opens its doors on Saturday, June 14 following a 9-month closure and £2.5million investment.
Porthcurno has been described as a Victorian Silicon Valley; a bustling hub of high-tech global communications. In 1870, an undersea telegraph cable was laid on the sandy beach, creating a high-speed communications link between Cornwall and Bombay. Messages that would previously take days, weeks or months to send by packet ship would now take minutes. Porthcurno went on become the biggest telegraph cable station in the world and one of the most connected places on the planet.
Rachel Webster, from the museum, said: “The telegraph was the high-speed broadband of its day, and it changed the world. Today, when we are more globally connected to each other than at any time in the past, this history is relevant to each and every one of us.
"Many people may be surprised to discover that such an important part of world history has its home here in Porthcurno, in the far west of Cornwall. It’s amazing to think that Porthcurno was at the centre of something so huge.”
Modern exhibitions in the Eastern House gallery are more interactive and sensory than ever before; a light and sound installation greets visitors as they arrive and hands-on activities are dotted around the gallery. There are things for visitors to touch, see, try on, hear and even smell; pick up the handset of a vintage Bakelite telephone and you will hear fascinating first-hand historic accounts.
On offer in the famous World War 2 tunnels is a more atmospheric experience. Working telegraph equipment dating to the 1920s whirrs away, transporting visitors back in time. Here, the museum tells its wartime stories; from the violent sabotage of telegraph cables as some of the earliest acts of WW1, to local village life during WW2 when Porthcurno was heavily fortified. Hard hats have to be donned to climb the escape steps; created as an emergency escape for telegraph workers in the event of enemy attack.
Re-opening marks completion of the museum’s ‘Developing for the Future’ project which set out to improve the museum for visitors, and preserve the unique heritage of Porthcurno.
Heritage lottery Fund awarded the ambitious project £1.44m in 2012 and further funding has been provided by Cable & Wireless Communications, Vodafone, the Arts Council England, the Charles Hayward Foundation, the Clore Duffield Foundation, Coastal Communities Fund, Cornwall Council, DCMS/Wolfson Fund, the Edith Murphy Foundation, the Garfield Weston Foundation, the Headley Trust, ShareGift, SubOptic, the Truthouse Charitable Foundation, and a number of private individuals.
Phase one of the project was completed in September 2013 with the opening of the Wilshaw Building; housing the Clore Learning Space and the Cable & Wireless archive. The building recently hosted a UK premiere art film screening with international artist Emilia Telese and the launch of the St Levan local History Group’s new WW1 book, Letters of Love and War.
For visitor information and 2014 admission see www.porthcurno.org.uk