Eureka AHRC Project

The Latin Verse Machine is going on its holidays to Devon…

Entry ticket, Latin Verse Machine on exhibition at the Egyptian Hall, Piccadilly, 1845

Entry ticket, Latin Verse Machine on exhibition at the Egyptian Hall, Piccadilly, 1845

During 2015/16, the Alfred Gillett Trust will be working closely with the University of Exeter in an exciting project to renovate John Clark’s Latin Verse Machine ‘Eureka’, making it more widely accessible to members of the public and to scholars from a wide range of disciplines. It is hoped that the Machine will go on permanent display at the Grange, the home of the Alfred Gillett Trust in Street, Somerset, once the project is completed.

The University of Exeter has been awarded an AHRC Science in Culture Innovation Award. This scheme links up humanities and science disciplines, and the project will combine the joint expertise of a number of academics and students, conservators and curators.

Start date: Jan 2015             End date: June 2016

Project team:

Natalie Watson (Collections Development Manager, Alfred Gillett Trust)
Neil Bollen (Fine metals conservator)
Richard Everson (Professor of Machine Learning, University of Exeter)
Jason Hall (Senior Lecturer in English, University of Exeter)
Richard Jaeschke (Wood conservator)
Alice Jenkins (Professor of Victorian Literature and Culture, University of Glasgow)
Chris Stray (Hon Research Fellow, Classics, University of Swansea)

Latin Verse Machine (Eureka)

Latin Verse Machine (Eureka)

Project phases:

Jan-Feb 2015 Transport to Devon; 3D scanning; project planning

Feb-May 2015 Restoration by conservators

Mar-Nov 2015 ALM fabrication (replica construction by 3D printing)

Jan-Aug 2015 Mechanical fabrication (engineering student project)

Jan-Aug 2015 Virtual Eureka (computer science student project)

Jul 2015 Mid project evaluation

Oct 2015 Computing at Schools conference

Jan-Dec 2015 Creation of database of historical documents; project record

Nov-Dec 2015 Project de-brief

27 Nov 2014, CB


24 Jan 2015: Eureka is preparing to go on the move for the first time in 150 years…

Neil Bollen and the Latin Verse MachineThis week, metal conservator Neil Bollen came to The Grange, Street, to view the Latin Verse Machine in situ and to start getting it ready to transport down to a temporary workshop at the University of Exeter.

Neil Bollen and the Latin Verse MachineNeil took the opportunity to secure the various mechanisms and weights against the shaking and jiggling to come for Eureka whilst tucked up in a transit van heading down the M5 across the county boundary.

Neil also took some detailed measurements of the machine’s external dimensions, since Eureka doesn’t fit through a standard doorway (perhaps this explains why the machine has never been kept in a Clark family house – since its arrival in Street in the 1850s, it has stayed instead in the Clarks shoe factory or in the museum!).

The Trust is now making arrangements with Neil to fix on a removal date, hopefully in the next week or so. It will be the first time that Eureka has left Street for probably over 150 years. When it returns, the machine will be in good working order and worthy of its status of one of the Trust’s star objects.

2 Feb 2015: The Trust waves goodbye to Eureka

Last Thursday, Neil Bollen (metal conservator), Neil’s son Rupert and Alma Rahat (University of Exeter) came to Street and took the Eureka machine away to be conserved and given lots of TLC in an AHRC project.

Moving the machine proved rather a challenge. As shelving had been installed in the storeroom around the machine, it all had to be moved out of the way to make room for the machine to come down the aisle. This meant moving lots of our most recently accessioned Point of Sale material from Clarks which is stored here temporarily until it is catalogued and moved into the archive permanently.

We decided that the alternative route out of the fire exit across the wet and boggy grass in the Trust’s apple orchard wasn’t really a viable option on such a grim day!

Neil had made a wooden cradle for the machine cabinet to sit on whilst it was being moved, so it proved a challenge to slide the cabinet off and onto it safely. The next step was to get the machine and cradle onto the trolley. Then it was plain sailing to wheel the machine out of the Barn and through the external doorway.

On turning the bottom table base unit upside-down to go into the van, we discovered that the base unit is actually mounted on wooden wheels.

There was another anxious moment when it transpired that the machine might not fit into the transit van as it was too tall. Luckily, sliding it off its lifting cradle meant we just had enough room by a whisker. Neil & Co drove off into a mini hail storm as dusk fell, but arrived in Exeter safely. Here the engineering technicians gave a hand in unloading the machine.

The following morning, it was winched upstairs into the Harrison Building where the doorframe had to be dismantled in order to get the machine through into its new home. And we wondered why the machine hadn’t moved for so many years.

The next steps will be for Neil to take a closer look at the machine and for the project team to meet and start planning the project in detail. Exciting times ahead!

More news to follow as the project progresses during 2016…