Curator's Choice: The Engineerium

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The Independent Culture
For my curator's choice, one particular engine in the museum springs to mind - an early 19th-century example. It's a vertical twin cylinder oscillating pendulous engine and, as a piece of proportional design, it gave birth to a whole system of engineering, where rocking the cylinders back and forth made the engine become shorter and more compact. It's an extraordinarily beautiful object, and stylistically influential. I found it in the 1960s and it was love at first sight. It was designed by a fantastic engineer Henry Maudslay (1771-1831). He shared my belief in the system of apprenticeship and he got his apprentices to make exquisite models of his concepts to explore the skills and ingenuity that went into making them. We therefore have an incredible legacy in this country of his progress as a designer and many of his apprentices went on to become some of the great names in technology right across Europe.

The British Engineerium is the museum of practical art. It's a trust set up to encourage interest in the useful arts and sciences, in order to try and perpetuate their commercial future. This year we're putting a Cornish beam engine in a Welsh lead mine and also doing up a railway in Yorkshire. Also we have five-year apprenticeships, to teach people the skills required for technology restoration work. We're a tiny outfit which started in the 1960s with only pounds 300 and is still not funded locally or nationally and sadly we're the only place in the world training people in engineering heritage and conservation.

Jonathan Minns is founder of the British Engineerium, Hove, E Sussex (0273 559583)