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British Film Institute: Getting a look at the UK’s film archives

bfi.jpgThe British Film Institute (BFI) is the home of the national archive of film and television, with one of the biggest collections of filmed material in the world. The Institute currently holds over 50,000 fiction and 100,000 non-fiction film – some dating back over 100 years – as well as about 625,000 TV programs.

The extensive archives also include silent films, newsreels, experimental and home movies. While most of the collection is British in origin, though some merely feature British actors, writers and/or directors.

With advances in digital technology, the BFI have been able to make much of their archives more accessible to the general public.

For years now, they’ve been working with computer company Hewlett Packard to digitize parts of the collection. At their South Bank Mediatheque center, film and TV fans can pull up a seat at a computer and search the archives for free.

A selection of about 1,000 film and TV programs have been restored and digitized, and many are featured with their original screen or teleplays, as well as detailed information on the production. The BFI are unable to make their collection available online because of copyright restrictions, but plan to create a number of similar free viewing centers throughout the UK.

The BFI’s Mediatheque is on the south bank of the Thames, just over Waterloo Bridge.