Coventry University have created the £1m "virtual library", which celebrates the UK´s 165-year telecoms history. The searchable database was created in conjunction with BT and the National Archives. Funding came from Jisc; a national charity providing digital services for UK education and research.
Rare documents – including a government rejection letter to the inventor of the telephone – have gone online for the first time. Among the 500,000 files are pictures documenting the first 999 call and private royal telegrams.
Neil Forbes, a historian and director of research at the university called the archive "a magnificent achievement".
"It took about 18 months to transfer all of the documents, pictures and letters, which previously took up around three kilometres of shelf space.
David Hay, head of heritage at BT, said the archive showed how attitudes to different cultures, races, classes and sexes had changed over the years.
“There are many weird and wonderful photographs in the archive, which really do make you stop and stare.
“It’s a fascinating glimpse at the ways in which technology has changed our lives, as well as how our daily lives have changed over the last 165 years on so many levels,” he said.
“This is a very important collection and a very important part of the national archives – in the future, we intend to expand the online archive and make it even bigger.
“It’s an archive of national importance, and one that is now there for the whole world to see,” Mr Forbes added.