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Using Regional Film Archives: Why Bother?


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#1 Dan Moorhouse

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Posted 14 May 2005 - 08:59 AM

Posted for Alf Wilkinson.

Using Regional Film Archives: Why Bother?

What are Regional Film Archives?

Regional Film Archives are the public repositories of film and video in this country. It is their duty to preserve, conserve and make available to the public – for educational purposes too – our moving image history. There is a great emphasis recently on links to education. The Department of Culture, Sport and the Media has made funds available, as has the Heritage Lottery Fund, for digitization of resources.

There are also local Film Archives – eg the Lincolnshire and Humberside Film Archive – and local/regional sound archives – eg the North West Sound Archive. These are much harder to track down, but may well have just the kind of resources we might want to use in school. Ask in your local museum and/or record office/archives – they will know what is available in the locality.


A full list of Regional Film Archives and links to their websites is available at:
www.bufvc.ac.uk/faf/members.htm#National%20Film%20and%20Television%20Archive

Regional sound archives:
eg: North West Sound Archive – email contact: nwsa@ed.lancscc.gov.uk who produce tapes of local people describing their experiences in WW1 and WW2 Best thing is to ask at your local County Records Office or museum for info.

Local film Archives:
eg: Lincolnshire and Humberside Film Archive, produced a video ‘Seems like Yesterday’, looking at aspects of Lincolnshire life from 1908 – 1953. Ask at your local newspaper or record office for details.

And of course don’t forget the British Pathe archive – available free to you via your Regional Broadband Consortium. http://broadband.ngfl.gov.uk – will help you find your local contact point. Increasingly, RBCs are using film from Pathe to produce materials available from their site. [NB: you can download low quality preview clips from home, but to get high [broadcast] quality clips without charge you must download these in school.]

There is also the British Film Institute. BFI has several sections of interest:
Screenonline: www.screenonline.org.uk/film/id/446108/index.html , go to the ‘genres and themes’ section. Here you will find sections on documentaries, newsreels, political films, etc – all of use in the classroom. [ NB: For copyright reasons you can only download these free in school.] Their recent CD/DVD of Mitchell and Kenyon silent films – Electric Edwardians – is a superb collection of resources, mostly filmed in the North West. Their website contains teaching notes by Ben Walsh – you can download them for free - on using the materials in the classroom.

A common response from teachers on discovering their regional archive is ‘I never knew such a thing existed,’ or ‘wow!’ The strength of the archives is, of course, their regional/local resources. For schools in Manchester to use material on Manchester in the Blitz, for example, is far more direct than film of London. Of course, this is not always possible, but there is much more local and regional material available than is commonly supposed. Many of the film archives house the collected output of local television and radio stations, as well as oral history projects, old promotional films, even amateur movies from before the war.

The key issue for teachers is one of access and knowing what is available; and, perhaps, of having some ‘scaffolding’ linking resources to what is taught in the classroom, to enable teachers to feel comfortable with the material. Of course, some teachers need little or no support, whereas others need a great deal.

Almost all the archives see their collections as a ‘huge untapped resource’ of material, as far as schools are concerned. Most use at present is either ad-hoc – ‘have you got material on….’ or teachers using materials already produced for sale to the general public or other users. Archives rarely have an education officer, or if they do, they rarely have National Curriculum knowledge and expertise. And they are rarely historians! That makes finding out what you want sometimes difficult and time-consuming.

Perhaps the biggest issue for regional film and sound archives is finance. Income for them is uncertain, and they are certainly financed on the cheap. But it is the uncertainty that is the biggest problem. How do you plan medium to long term education work with an uncertain income stream? How do you finance an education officer? Yet if schools are to make full use of this tremendous resource then the Archives need staff, time and support to help make it happen.

Many archives now have online catalogues: these can be accessed from here: www.bufvc.ac.uk/faf/databases.htm, but if titles, categories and labels do not mean anything to teachers then it is difficult to realize the value of what is on offer. You may have to plough your way through a lot of records to find what you want. Perhaps the best way is to visit the archive and talk to the people there. They do know what is in their collection, and if it is available in digital format for easy use by teachers.

What do we, as teachers, want from film Archives? Do we want ‘raw’ footage, to use as evidence and interpretations, or do we want ‘scaffolding’ and support in how to use the material archives hold? This is as confusing an issue for archives as it is for teachers. Archives are unsure whether to produce ‘mediated’ materials, with commentary and editing, or the original unadulterated footage. Of course the answer is that some teachers want to use raw footage, and others need lots of support!

Some archives also have Websites offering online access to film from film archive collections: www.bufvc.ac.uk/faf/websites.htm

Some regional film archives have videos and/or DVDs for sale of materials in their archive: www.bufvc.ac.uk/faf/videos.htm will give you a link to some of them.


How might we use Regional Film Archive material in the classroom?

The BBC TV series ‘The Nation on Film,’ for example, uses regional and local footage to build up a national picture of the C20th, cleverly interspersing local archive film with ‘talking head’ interviews of people who were there and interviews with experts. There has been a whole spate of regional TV productions – WW2 in Colour, etc, etc, and this is a major income source for regional film archives.
BBC Nation on Film website: www.bbc.co.uk/nationonfilm/

Some regional TV stations use Archive film to produce, for instance, East Anglia at War, or similar programmes, with a distinct regional feel to them.

But most of all local history is sometimes poorly taught – or not at all – in many history classrooms. Regional Film Archives give us a perfect opportunity to put that right. Pupils like it – they can relate to it in a way that they don’t to material in text books. And how much better is it to approach the really big issues from a local perspective? One of my best ideas was to study WW1 from the local war memorial – it brought the war home to pupils in a way I’d never managed before.

Regional Film Archives are keen to work with teachers – within the constraints imposed on them by their budgets. The Yorkshire Film Archive, for instance, has just had a ‘rejuvenation ‘grant to employ an education officer for the next two years, and he is trying to work with teachers in the area to produce materials of relevance to the classroom. For further information on the archive visit www.yorkshirefilmarchive.com

So, is it worth the bother of tracking down that elusive piece of film that fits perfectly into your scheme of work? The answer has to be a resounding ‘yes!’ It is more relevant to the pupils, it provides another weapon in our armoury to say history is important, that there are different viewpoints and interpretations of history, that the ‘London’ or ‘National’ view of history is not always correct. And it encourages our pupils to question the stereotypes and over-simplifications of the textbook.

If you are using local and/or regional film already in your classroom, or plan to please let us know. We can try to build up a co-operative exchange of materials, and help each other access those hard to find materials.

If you think it is all far too much bother for the return, then equally I look forward to hearing from you.

Alf Wilkinson

#2 Dan Moorhouse

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Posted 26 May 2005 - 03:04 PM

Alf mentioned to me that my local archive has employed a teacher for a year to work on making materials available to teachers. This should offer an excellent opportunity to get hold of some decent local clips that are of relevance to a range of aspects of the curriculum.

I'm contacting them to see what they can offer - what sort of clips would people expect to be available? Any ideas about the sorts of things that I should be asking for?

#3 alf wilkinson

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Posted 26 May 2005 - 08:50 PM

The Yorkshire Film Archive project is for two years, not one Dan, so you do have some time to get a project going with them - they are keen to work with teachers. AS are most Regional Film Archives, they just don't have the manpower to make it easy!
There will be promotional films - cities as well as firms, amateur footage that ca nbe really enlightening, as well as regional tv output. You'll be amazed at the choice you have!
Let me know how you get on.
Alf Wilkinson: www.burntcakes.com

#4 Dave Wallbanks

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Posted 26 May 2005 - 09:04 PM

I'd love to make more use of film archive material but my LEA hasn't bought into any package. Is there any way around this? I did try to buy video online but was amazed by the horrendous costs that stop my using the materials I was interested in on the first world war and Emily Davison.
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#5 alf wilkinson

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Posted 06 June 2005 - 08:05 PM

The Yorkshire Film Archive project is for two years, not one Dan, so you do have some time to get a project going with them - they are keen to work with teachers. AS are most Regional Film Archives, they just don't have the manpower to make it easy!
There will be promotional films - cities as well as firms, amateur footage that ca nbe really enlightening, as well as regional tv output. You'll be amazed at the choice you have!
Let me know how you get on.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


You can freely access low quality Pathe news clips from their website, at home or school, but really it is not worth the hastle. Film Education have two digital video packages - the Somme, and D- Day, with more on the way, that are very reasonably priced and have all kinds of editing software. Try screenonline too - free registration at school and downloading. They have lots of documentary, newsreel, etc that you can doenload and use, and edit using 'microsoft windows' software. Channel 4 have lots of CDs and videos to buy for school use - al lat one-off costs rather than subscription. Transfer all your old video programmes - or at least the clips you use - to DVD and then use 'moviemaker' to play around with them.
Is that enough to get you going?
Alf Wilkinson: www.burntcakes.com

#6 Dan Moorhouse

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Posted 18 September 2008 - 12:27 PM

This playlist is pretty good for people in the North. I've used a handful of clips with Yr9 groups looking at the area in the build up to the First World War. Great for continuity and change work as well. (NB: It might appear at first glance that the clips are all football related - they're not!)

#7 Tony Fox

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Posted 18 September 2008 - 03:32 PM

I'd love to make more use of film archive material but my LEA hasn't bought into any package. Is there any way around this? I did try to buy video online but was amazed by the horrendous costs that stop my using the materials I was interested in on the first world war and Emily Davison.

Ditto to this
as a free agent I would love to get hold of some of this, as I actually have some time to do something with it!!!

mind you a lot of the clips are of old football matches, really old football matches as Newcastle are winning :woo: Sorry Dave could not resist
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#8 Mark H.

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Posted 18 September 2008 - 05:24 PM

The Northwest Film Archive (http://www.nwfa.mmu.ac.uk/) produced a very good learning resource in the 1990s about the Home Front in the Second World War (which we still use for GCSE) and some good collections of their historic films entitled 'Moving Memories Volumes 1-4' These are still available from them, albeit only on VHS, but there hasn't been anything new for some time.
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#9 Dan Moorhouse

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Posted 18 September 2008 - 05:30 PM

Tony - see http://www.youtube.c...orthernheritage

Lots on there of use, and there are other channels worthy of a glance.




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