History of AIA

The Origins and Early History of the AIA

Industrial archaeology emerged as a concept after the Second World War. The depredations of bombing and subsequent rebuilding gradually raised an awareness of what was being lost. The first use of term ‘industrial archaeology’ is generally attributed to Michael Rix in 1955 and the term gained national recognition in 1958 when the Council for British Archaeology organised a conference on industrial archaeology and subsequently formed a Research Committee on Industrial Archaeology to campaign for the subject. The critical point was the deliberate destruction in 1962 of the Doric Arch that formed the entrance to Euston Station, the first London main line railway terminus.

The Council for British Archaeology continued to play a major part in stimulating interest and lobbying Government to identify and protect historic industrial sites resulting in the establishing of a National Survey of Industrial Monuments in 1963. At the same time a good number of local industrial archaeology societies were formed and Angus Buchanan, set up the Centre for the Study of the History of Technology at Bath in 1964 which organised a series of annual conferences at Bath in 1966. The Bath Conferences grew in strength and in 1969 the CBA convened a conference to promote the idea of a national society. This led to the convening of a British Conference on Industrial Archaeology (BCIA) in Bradford in 1971 and at the second BCIA in Glasgow it was proposed that a national society be formed the following year at the BCIA on the Isle of Man. Thus in 1973 the Association for Industrial Archaeology came into being , with Tom Rolt as its first president. Sadly, Tom Rolt died in 1974, before the first annual conference of the AIA, and Angus Buchanan took over.

The AIA was incorporated as a charitable company in 1977. The journal Industrial Archaeology was transferred from David & Charles to Oxford University Press as Industrial Archaeology Review in 1976 but brought under full AIA control in 1984. Another major activity has been the Rolt Memorial Lecture, a feature of the annual AIA conference since 1975, while the conference itself has been a worthy successor to the Bath Conferences. It has always been the main event of the Association and allows regular exchanges of news, information and techniques between industrial archaeologists from all parts of the country and beyond. It has thus become an instrument for the expression of a national view on industrial archaeological affairs.

This summary is drawn from an article by Angus Buchanan that appeared in Industrial Archaeology News 169 in Summer 2014.

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