The study collection at EEMCS contains a wide range of electronic devices and is curated by a group of retirees that call themselves de keldermannen (the cellar men). “These men previously worked for the department of electrical engineering or are acquainted with the devices,” explains Han Geijp. “They still engage with each other and will always be connected through the work they did in the past.” The Cellar Men try to keep all exhibited devices working, just to keep the heritage alive. “They are basically the guardians of the collection,” says Geijp.
The collection consists of devices from the past one hundred years. One of these is the so-called ‘daughter clock’. Rob Timmermans explains the concept. “It awaits a signal from its mother to run for another minute. The clock was developed primarily for railway companies to ensure that the right time was displayed at different locations.”
‘Students want to discover what electrical science has created over time’
Another treasure is an old telephone which you might probably recognise online from movies. “In the 19th century, callers had to be connected via plug-in pins which were handled by human operators,” explains Bob Groenewout as he demonstrates the machine. “At a certain point, they wanted to get rid of operators so that gave rise to automatic telephone exchanges. The oldest one in our collection dates back to 1924.”
Sounds fun, time travelling through decades of electronics, but do people actually visit the cellars? According to Geijp, they do. “Students of the Faculty of Industrial Design Engineering come to look at the collection to understand how devices are built. And freshmen electrical engineering students want to discover what electrical science has created over time. During their studies at TU Delft, they learn modern techniques, but it is also important to know where they came from,” concludes Geijp.
TU Delft TV shot a short documentary on ‘The Cellar Men’. Make sure to watch it below.