Britain is a nation with a rich and varied cultural history, each of its four regions – England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – individual and unique, yet coming together to form a kingdom which has left its indelible mark on the world and history. Since the birth of film, during the closing days of the Victorian age, until now at the dawn of the 21st century, much of this nation’s rich history – both internationally significant as well as personal – has been captured on celluloid for posterity.
As the arbiter of nation’s filmic history, the BFI – through films from the Master Film Store at the British Film Institute’s National Film & Television Archive in Gaydon, Warwickshire, as well as with the assistance of regional and national archives and rights holders from throughout Britain – has launched an ambitious project Britain on Film with the aim of preserving these unique insights into our heritage and identity as captured on film. Garnered from national, public and private collections, numerous pieces of film and television spanning one hundred and twenty years have been collected, restored and documented to bring together a history through the moving image of Britain and her people, involved in everything from events of national importance to those of personal and everyday significance.
The best thing about the project however is that, as with everything at the BFI, the resultant library – which will eventually incorporate 10,000 pieces of archival film – has been formed with the public in mind. Through the medium of the BFI Player, everyone will be able to access a database which gives a unique picture of the British people at work and at play in both peacetime and at war.
At the recent launch of the initiative Heather Stewart, the BFI’s Creative Director, and Robin Baker, Head Curator of the BFI’s National Archive, explained the importance of the project as a record of Britain on Film. They also explained how to access the database on-line, highlighting specific areas of interest and the importance of the tool not only to people like students who wish to use it to augment their studies, but also to members of the public who simply wish to discover more about the area they live in or the history of where they come from. The result will form a living and constantly growing record of a nation and its people for generations to come.
Accessing the Britain on Film archive couldn’t be easier. Simply log onto the BFI Player at: http://player.bfi.org.uk, highlight the Britain on Film heading on the home page section, and follow the instructions to search for films related to areas with some meaning to you.
Further details of the Britain on Film initiative and the work of the BFI in general can be found on their website at: http://www.bfi.org.uk