September 27, 2008

Quad’s Digital Archive Collection Brings a World

More than 850 hours of archive film will be available to view at Derby's Quad arts centre as the city plays host to the first Mediatheque outside of London.

This unique digital collection of documentaries, TV newsreels, home movies, feature and short films and vintage TV programmes is a selection from the vast library held at the BFI's South Bank base. From archive film of life in and around Derby, via episodes of Peak Practice to Shane Meadows' Derbyshire-set movie Dead Man's Shoes, it will offer a snapshot of the area in moving pictures as well as tapping into a vast wider collection.

Robin Baker, head curator at the BFI national archive, says: "There will be about 1,000 pieces - a tiny fragment of the near 900,000 films and TVprogrammes we have at the BFI. To digitise the lot would cost nearly pounds1bn and we are far from having that kind of money. But we are slowly building the digitised collections we can make available to the public and this has a wide cross-section of film and everything that's in the London Mediatheque - including around 100 films about Derby, Derbyshire and the East Midlands."

The Quad Mediatheque will be free to use and you will be able to book space on one of the computer screens.

"It's for people who are interested in anything and everything," says Robin. "It's not about the history of film. It's about films and TV programmes you might remember from the past with a nostalgic appeal or which tap into interest you might have. We have subjects ranging from fashion and The Blitz to British architecture and punk rock. Every month we add a new collection on a given theme. People might think they are not interested in archive film but if you are a cyclist, for example, you might just want to see films on that subject. And about 85 per cent of the material can't be seen anywhere else.

"We have 30,000 people a year using the London Mediatheque. At the South Bank we have queues of people waiting to use it.

"We are now trying to spread Mediatheque around the country and Derby seemed a good base to be a regional centre and what was particularly attractive to us was a fantastic new arts facility right in the heart of the city to host Mediatheque. And the BFI has worked with the old Derby Metro for a number of years and been impressed with the cultural work they have done, including showing a lot of archive film. Those screenings were sell-outs with repeat performances and that has shown us there's such an appetite for archive films in Derby."

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