Big, bold and beautiful

The archive collection that the Lloyd's Register Foundation are beginning to digitise comes in many different shapes and sizes, from tiny steel orders on tissue paper to enormous ship plans that extend past the end of the table!

The ship plans can be of any conceivable part of the ship and examples have been found of mid-ship sections, deck profiles, hatches, rigging, masts, rudders, engines and many many more! Currently they are housed alongside the survey reports and correspondence in archival grade storage boxes. However, this can be very damaging place to store such plans because the creases from the extensive, long-term folding become deeply ingrained and brittle as they age.


Usually, flattening these documents under pressure is not sufficient to remove distortions and can damage the paper. It is in fact the paper fibres themselves that require realignment. This is an issue that the team are considering and it is hoped that should the full project go ahead, these plans could go to a conservator for treatment. Flattening can be achieved by localised or overall humidification of the document, followed by pressing, which should make the paper more pliable and release the pressure on folded corners, which can be prone to tearing. When necessary, severe creases may be reinforced on the verso with Japanese paper adhered with an archival paste.


Once the plan have been conserved and reinforced, they will of course need to be moved to a more suitable storage location. As a result, the team have been starting to look into the costs of plan chests. If these were available, plans could remain flat in storage so that the issue with folding is not repeated in the future. Additionally, contrary to popular belief, they take up more room than plan chests because of the empty space in the centre of the roll.

Some plans were taken out from storage today to assess their variety and condition. We thought we would share a few of the highlights with you! 


This is one of the incredibly complex hand drawn boiler plans for the Mauretania, completed in 1905. The Mauretania was built in 1906 by Cunard Line and at the time she was the world's largest ship, as well as the fastest until launch of the Bremen in 1929. We have a lot of boiler plans in the Ship Annals because they had a tendency to blow up every so often! Here is a close up of part of the image:


We have very in depth documentation on the Mauretania, including this plan of her seven decks.


In the plan above, you can see where the main passenger areas are, as well as respective dining areas. The set up is pretty conventional and you may recognise it as being similar to the Titanic, which was launched 6 years later by the White Star Line. The rivals White Star Line and Cunard merged in 1934.


Some of the plans and diagrams are simply stunning and could be classed as works of art in their right. This beautiful plans shows the mast steps that helped to hold the mast in place. This particular piece comes from the Ama Begonakoa, later known as the Medway and still later, the Myr Shell. This ship in particular has some absolutely stunning, unusual plans, which we intend to illuminate in later posts.

The images on this page have been taken by professional cameras so that minuscule details can be seen. The amount of information on such works, as well as their visual appeal as works of art means that the digital images created from this project will need to be of a similar quality.This poses quite a problem in terms of digital storage but taking these images means that the details, which are already beginning to fade with time, will be preserved, as well as made available online for you to peruse at your leisure.

These works can be absolutely enormous so we've also taken some close up images to demonstrate the level of detail contained within them that may be hard to see ordinarily.

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