Unlocking Film Heritage

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Unlocking Film Heritage
United Kingdom

Unlocking Film Heritage (UFH) was one of the biggest film digitisation projects ever undertaken and it encompassed the British Film Institute National Archive together with national and regional audiovisual archival institutions in United Kingdom. Between 2013-2017 around 10,000 titles, capturing 120 years of Great Britain on film, were digitised and made free-to-access in a variety of ways. Many archival clips can be watched for free online via BFI Player.[1]

Unlocking film heritage (UFH)

British Film Institute (BFI) feared that the UK’s audiovisual heritage was in danger of being stranded in the analogue domain and forever inaccessible to the people of Britain. So they made a five year plan - Film Forever: Supporting UK Film 2012-2017 in order to remedy this. The goal of the programme was to ensure that researchers, film-makers, outreach programmes and the general public easier can access the British intangible cultural heritage. In order to achieve this investments were done in preservation, digitisation and interpretation of audiovisual archival material. The content of the material spans from urban architecture to rural landscapes, from festivals to schools, from local people to famous visitors etc.

The UFH project was one of the largest and most complexed archive preservation projects undertaken in UK and it won the award for Best Archive Preservation Project at the FIAT/IFTA (International Federation of Television Archives) world conference in Warsaw 2016. A jury of international experts were impressed by the highly collaborative nature of the UFH project, where expertise and commercial service providers from all of UK nations and regions participated. They jury also praised the new technologies and processes invented and used, where the aim was not only to care for the archival collections but also to make them accessible to a digitally connected world.[2] [3]

Participants in the UFH project

East anglian film archive (EAFA)

This regional film archive was one of the first in UK, established in the 70s as a repository for the regions audiovisual heritage. More than 150 hours of archive film footage from EAFA was made made available during the UFH project. The content depicts Norfolk life and includes scenes from Cromer and Caister in the 1930s, a visit by George Formby to the region in 1949, actress Joyce Grenfell in King’s Lynn in 1961, the K Shoe factory workers protest of 1976 and the Singing Postman.[4]

Imperial war museums (IWM)

London's Screen Archives (LSA)

Media archive for central england (MACE)

National screen and sound archive of wales (NSSAW)

NSSAW holds a film collection of over 5 million feet of film that represents Welsh culture and life in Wales from the late 19th Century through to the 21st Century. Over 700 titles were made available free online during the UFH project. There are newsreels, advertisements, commercial and amateur films including: a phantom train ride through Conwy railway station (1898), an athletics and horse racing event at the Cardiff Stadium (1911), the Marquis of Anglesey’s children playing with their nannies (1922), David Lloyd George with his pet dogs (C.1929), Men Against Death (1933), a restoration of the first Welsh language feature film: Y Chwarelwr (The Quarryman) (1935), agricultural shows around Wales from the 1940s, majorettes at various carnivals in the Dulais Valley from the 1950s to 1970s, Tiger Bay and the Rainbow Club (1960), Tryweryn - The Story of a Valley (1969) and a Oscar winning documentary on Dylan Thomas (1962).[5] [6]

North East Film Archive (NEFA)

North west film archive (NWFA)

Northern ireland screen (NIS)

Northern Ireland Screen worked together a host of organisations including National Museums Northern Ireland, UTV, Tourism NI and the Irish Film Archive. About 200 pieces of cine film was digitised and preserved through the project.

Scotland's Moving Image Archive (SMIA)

Screen Archive South East (SASE)

SASE contributed with about 400 films and material is a mixture of publicity films, amateur films, local news films, films originally designed as public records, industrial films, advertisements, short fiction and animation.

South west film and television archive (SWFTA)

Wessex Film and Sound Archive (WFSA)

WFSA contributed with about 80 films and the material is a mixture of publicity films, amateur films, local news films, films originally designed as public records, industrial films, advertisements, short fiction and animation.[7]

Yorkshire Film Archive (YFA)

In the media


  1. "Beautifully preserved films, capturing over 100 years of local life on film". Digital Film Archive. Retrieved 2020-05-04.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  2. "Unlocking Film Heritage wins top FIAT/IFTA award". British Film Institute (BFI). 2019-05-01. Retrieved 2020-03-29.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  3. "FIAT/IFTA Previous Winners". FIAT/IFTA. Retrieved 2020-05-05.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  4. David, Freezer (2011-11-24). "Images of Norfolk's past free to see in online UEA archive". Norwich Evening news. Retrieved 2020-05-06.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  5. "National Library Wales (NLW) Film". National Library Wales. Retrieved 2020-05-04.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  6. "Archive film of Wales digitised for Britain on Film project". BBC News. 2015-07-07. Retrieved 2020-03-29.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  7. "BFI – Unlocking Film Heritage". Wessex Film and Sound Archive (WFSA). Retrieved 2020-05-06.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)

External links

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