Archive Overview

We hold a wealth of personal papers of prominent mechanical engineers, including those of our founder George Stephenson and his son Robert.

Our drawing collections range from technical plans to illustrations; highlights include Boulton & Watt and James Nasmyth drawings.

Our company records span from the earliest steam railway companies such as Liverpool and Manchester to twentieth century engine builders D Napier & Son. Artefacts complement the archival collections.

Discover all this and more by making an appointment with us, or use our online tools.

Virtual Archive

Many thousands of items are available for you to research at One Birdcage Walk, London. Hundreds of our key archive items, including many artefacts, are available online via our Virtual Archive, including  key objects, drawings, notebooks, documents and photographs which showcase the history of the Institution and mechanical engineering.


Our Institutional records which date from our founding in 1847 include Council and Committee minutes and membership records.

We also hold archives of merged bodies, the Institutions of Automobile and Locomotive Engineers, along with those of complimentary organisations. The Council minutes can be read in our Virtual Archive.

Membership records are available online, 1847-1938. Email us about all post-1938 records.

Members can access these documents for free, by logging in via Members Ancestry.

Members Ancestry


Non-Members can also gain access via Ancestry or by visiting us.


Discover Ancestry


Image Library

The mechanical engineering image library is formed from our archives and historic book collection, with over 1,922 images available to researchers.

The images cover topics from railways to manufacturing, spanning the late 1800s to the late 1900s. From works of art of Liverpool & Manchester Railway to images of Napier engines: and from design drawings of locomotives by David Joy to construction photographs of Isambard Kingdom Brunel's Great Eastern; the collection offers a wealth of visual and informative images.

Search Image Library



We are available to help you make the most of your research both at Birdcage Walk in London and online with research support services.

Need some help?

Contact the Archive services team if you have any questions about our Archive or artefacts.

Doing some research? We can provide you with research support.