Connect with the Earth at Goonhilly

By David Prudames | 03 April 2002

Left: at the launch - Robin Pauley, Communications Director, BT and Hugh Scully, TV presenter and local resident.

Hugh Scully swapped antique china and fine paintings for vintage mechanical telephone exchanges and futuristic 3D body scanning when he re-opened BT's Goonhilly Visitors Centre in Cornwall on March 25.

The centre at Goonhilly Earth Station on the Lizard Peninsula has undergone a £1 million renovation to improve existing facilities and accommodate the new Connected Earth Gallery.

The Earth Station is already one of Cornwall's most popular visitor attractions. As well as the Connected Earth Gallery, there is an Interactive Exhibition Area as well as supporting public facilities.

This is the first stage of BT's Connected Earth heritage project that will, in June this year, put the company's enormous telecommunications history archive on to the Internet to explain the importance and development of global communication.

The online museum will be a natural extension of the physical exhibitions of machinery, artefacts, photographs and video dating back to 1840. This is set to take place in museums up and down the country from Edinburgh to the south coast.

The Goonhilly exhibition reveals the story of the early years of telecommunications - from submarine cable laying in the 1850's, to the first satellite broadcast, the 1969 Apollo 11 moon landing and the very latest broadband technology.

Visitors get the chance to see some of the great strides taken in the pursuit of global communication: see the earliest box phones, an Avatar BT virtual image booth, videophones and send an e-mail into outer space. I wonder if aliens get spam too?

Right: 'Arthur,' one of the world's first satellite dishes, was erected at Goonhilly in 1962 and created a great deal of public attention.

Ylva French, speaking for BT Heritage, described how local resident Hugh Scully's speech was well recieved by the 350 guests, before they had a chance to take a closer look at the rebuilt centre.

She said: "people were flocking around the exhibits, e-mailing and looking at the objects from the earliest telephones to the latest satellite technology."

In 1962, Goonhilly Earth Station was one of the first three satellite stations established around the world. Soon after, the huge satellite dishes at the prominent site on the Lizard Peninsula started to attract the public's attention.

People wanted to know more - about the history, about the technology of global communications, and to see the dishes close up. So, in 1982, BT opened the first visitor facilities on the site.

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