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Protecting the SS Great Britain’s hull while working from home

By bristol247, Friday Mar 27, 2020

Working from home for Nicola Grahamslaw means using digital technology to meticulously monitor the carefully balanced environment around the iron hull of the SS Great Britain.

During the current lockdown, the ship’s conservation engineer is making use of pioneering technological solutions, all of which can be controlled remotely.

“It’s essential that even though we must stay at home, we continue to carefully control the environment around the SS Great Britain’s iron hull which would otherwise deteriorate by corroding in Bristol’s climate,” said Nicola.

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Thanks to two custom-built dehumidifiers which circulate very dry air beneath a ‘glass sea’, the ship’s fragile hull will remain intact for generations.

The technology monitoring the humidity and air circulation 24-hours-a-day involves a network of sensors and controls.

To keep the air as dry as possible, the dry dock is sealed by a huge water-line glass plate – photo: SS Great Britain Trust

This means that Nicola can monitor and adjust the equipment over the internet from home and keep an eye on essential maintenance needs.

The ongoing conservation and charitable work of the SS Great Britain Trust costs £2m a year, with much of that cost met from visitor ticket income.

With the dockyard gates temporarily closed and the longer term tourism economy uncertain, the charity is taking steps to ensure that Brunel’s pioneering ship can continue to inspire visitors when the museum reopens.


Read more: 13 photos of Bristol on the last day before lockdown


SS Great Britain Trust chief executive, Matthew Tanner, said: “The nation’s safety and health is the priority, and it’s absolutely right for this to be the focus.

“Nevertheless, more than ever before, museums across the world can play an important role in enriching people’s lives.

“We shall, of course, be here for people to visit and enjoy when this challenge is over, but we’re also online now with our curators, educators and content teams bringing collection stories and passenger stories to life digitally.”

Main photo by Lottie Morris

Read more: Harbour Festival 2020 and other major events cancelled

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