Key archives and what they do

Introductions to the BBC and BFI archives, and links to the major UK moving image and audio archives.


Central archive: BBC Archive Centre, Perivale

National archive collections: Northern Ireland – Broadcasting House, Belfast; Scotland – BBC Scotland, Glasgow; Wales – BBC Cymru Wales, Cardiff.
Regional collections: Birmingham, Bristol, Hull, Leeds, London News, Manchester, Newcastle, East (Cambridge), Nottingham, Oxford, South West (Plymouth), Southampton, Tunbridge Wells.

The BBC’s archive is a programme library for a working broadcaster, funded as part of the licence fee. It holds over 400,000 television programmes, over 700,000 hours of video, and 300,000 hours of audio. The BBC also holds 1.1 million items of commercial music, 4 million photos and 500,000 other documents.

A media asset management strategy supports the input of new material, applies common standards for data and storage and serves the key customers – primarily internal and external programme makers.

Key issues for the BBC:

  • Only holds some of the rights to its programme archive.
  • Its Charter has only recently recognised the value of public access to the archive.
  • It has to make the case for digitisation and web access within the context of constant financial restraint.


National Archives at J. Paul Getty Jr Conservation Centre, Berkhamsted

Funded by government as a national collection, the BFI National Archive has its origins in the movement to conserve film history in the 1930s and was founded as the National Film Library in 1935, just two years after the establishment of the British Film Institute, as the fulfilment of the BFI’s remit to ‘maintain a national repository of films of permanent value.’

The Archive holds one of the largest and most diverse moving image collections in the world, from the earliest surviving films of the 1890s to contemporary feature films, and incorporating short fiction films, animation, newsreels, documentaries, amateur film and artists’ film and video.

The collections house more than 60,000 fiction titles and 120,000 non-fiction titles from the birth of cinema to the present day. It has also been systematically collecting television programmes since the 1980s, with the co-operation of the major broadcasters. The BFI’s Special Collections preserve over 600 collections of filmmakers’ personal papers, 30,000 unpublished scripts, 1.5 million film stills and a vast collection of film posters, production and costume designs, marketing materials and cinema ephemera and memorabilia, as well as over 12,000 objects from the former Museum of the Moving Image collections.

Additionally, the BFI maintains a library collection including over 53,000 books, some 240,000 periodicals and 190,000 press cuttings, as well as hundreds of hours of recorded interviews with key film and television personalities.

Current acquisition (and disposal) strategy is governed by an assessment of the art, history and impact of film, and is described in the .

Key issues for the BFI:

  • There is no statutory legal deposit for film or moving image in the UK.
  • The collection has conserved film, but not acquired all rights to every film.
  • Ongoing debate about what to acquire and to store in the digital age.

  • Arts on Film Archive

    The Arts Council Film Collection is a national collection of arts films. It includes approximately 400-500 documentary and performance films funded or co-funded by the Arts Council between 1953 and 1998. Overall, the collection provides a narrative of the arts in post-war Britain, from studies of key figures such as Francis Bacon or Henry Moore through to a later emphasis on black and minority ethnic artists, and the emergence of modern and contemporary dance.

  • British Library Moving Image Collection

    The British Library has a moving image collection of around 60,000 titles, mostly on videotape and DVD.  The majority of the collection supports the themes of the Sound Archive and major new collections include Broadcast News.

  • British Library UK Sound Archive

    The British Library Sound Archive holds many sound and video recordings, with over a million discs and thousands of tapes. Its collections come from all over the world and cover the entire range of recorded sound from music, drama and literature, to oral history and wildlife sounds. Formats range from cylinders made in the late 19th century to the latest digital media.

  • British Universities Film and Video Council (BUFVC)

    Access to knowledge and resources covering moving image and sound for further and higher education and research. The BUFVC offers an excellent research gateway to major collections, often by subject area, for colleges and universities. You can search and find footage via your local higher education institution.

  • History of Advertising Trust (HAT)

    HAT houses the largest archive of UK advertising in the world, with unique collections and study resources dating from the early 1800s to the present day.

  • Imperial War Museum

    IWM’s collections cover all aspects of 20th and 21st-century conflict involving Britain, the Commonwealth and other former empire countries. The collections include a wide range of material, from multimedia holdings such as film and oral history to historic works of art and large objects.

  • JISC Collections

    JISC Collections opens up digital resources for colleges and universities, often including moving image and sound. Your local higher education institution will be a member and will have access to both databases and moving image assets.

  • LUX

    The LUX collection contains over 4,000 films and videos by over 1,000 international artists, ranging from the 1920s to the present. It is the largest collection of its kind in Europe, containing much rare and unique material.

  • Media Archive for Central England (MACE)

    MACE is the screen archive for the Midlands in the UK and provides opportunities for everyone to connect with the culture and history of the Midlands through a 70,000 strong collection of film, tape and digital material, much of which is searchable.

  • National Screen and Sound Archive of Wales

    Screen and Sound Archive of Wales is home to a comprehensive and unequalled collection of films, television programmes, videos, sound recordings and music relating to Wales and the Welsh.

  • Open University Footage Sales

    OU material going back to 1970 – a unique collection of thousands of TV and radio programmes – is available through Getty Images and BBC Worldwide Learning.

  • Prelinger Archives

    Major US collection built up over many years by Rick Prelinger. Included are films produced by and for many hundreds of important corporations, non-profit organisations, trade associations, community and interest groups, and educational associations.

  • Scottish Screen Archive

    The Scottish Screen Archive is Scotland’s national moving images collection. It preserves over 100 years of Scottish history on film and video.

  • Time Image

    Time Image works with film archives, creatively promoting and helping to provide access to the rich resources of heritage in a digital age.

  • Ulster Folk and Transport Museum

    The Ulster Folk and Transport Museum comprises two separate museums: the Folk Museum endeavours to illustrate the way of life and traditions of the people in Northern Ireland, past and present, while the Transport Museum explores and exhibits methods of transport by land, sea and air, past and present.

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