A visit to the Bill Douglas Archive.

billdouglas5On the 15th of January I went to Exeter University to visit the Bill Douglas Centre Archive. When you first enter the archive there is room full of film memorabilia ranging from Disney to independent British film makers. The majority of this is old film magazines and photographs of old film stars.

The Museum holds over 75,000 artifacts related to the moving image, dating from the seventeenth century to the present day. As well as having two galleries, the materials are used by Students and Researchers alike. In the second gallery we were billdouglas1introduced to the early technology of moving images such as shadow puppets and magic lanterns.

The museum was founded in commemoration of film maker Bill Douglas, a British filmmaker. In the museum there is approximately 50,000 items. The collection was formed over many years by Bill Douglas and Peter Jewell. Bill died in 1991, and Peter subsequently donated the Collection to the Exeter University Foundation.

The museum provides a research collection illustrating the development of optical entertainment from the late 18th century to Classical Hollywood and the present day.  About 1,000 of the most important items are on display in the museum’s two galleries. The remaining thousands of books and objects are all available for study in the Special Collections and Bill Douglas Cinema Museum Reading Room.

A visit to the South West Film and Television Archive.

On the 8th of January, I paid a visit to the SWFTA in Plymouth.This a charity whose role is to preserve and enable access to the moving image history of this area. It was established in 1993, and is one of the largest regional film archives in the UK. In its possession it has the Westward Television and Television South West independent television collections as well as a significant number of donated films both amateur and professional.


SWFTA’s  main jobs include providing footage for public exhibitions and screenings, being involved in community projects, selling DVDs, working with film makers and broadcasters as well as providing copies of footage for members of the public often for research projects.

A key aspect of the archive is digitising their vast collection of films and tapes, which are decaying at a rapid rate. Whilst I was there the volunteers and archivists showed us how they digitise and restoreOldFilmsSWFTA the colour of the damaged film strips before storing them on immense hard drives for preservation but also for easy access to a member of the public looking for a certain film. 

As someone who’s never shot film in analogue before it was incredibly interesting to see the process in which they play and conserve the work as well as the determination to preserve the past of film making.