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UK National Film & TV Archive Defends Future Plans

1 August 2004


In the recent Summer edition of FOCAL International's Archive Zones magazine an article entitled “National Catastrophe” call as UK’s National Film and Television Archive is threatened by drastic cuts appeared. This prompted a reply from the BFI in defence of their new strategy. FOCAL International is now pleased to print both the original article and the BFI's reply below: _____________________________________________________________________________


Passion and concern for the NFTVA are as keenly felt by the bfi as by anyone else. However, some critics have chosen to significantly misrepresent the steps we are taking to develop the Archive.

Archives the world over are facing new challenges; paradigms of the past are often no longer relevant for tomorrow. The plan we have drawn up faces the particular challenges of our Archive, building on the past and taking the prudent steps necessary to lay the foundations for a fundamental re-invigoration.

Our first step is to address urgent storage issues, move the collection into a controlled storage environment to minimise decay and allow us to manage preservation and restoration work in a thoughtful, ordered way. Conditions in much of the current storage are not acceptable, and pose an unacceptable risk to the collection.

A dedicated team has been formed to move the collection into safe storage during which a high level examination and assessment of the archive will be undertaken. This audit will allow us to identify, for the first time, the most 'at risk' material in need of immediate attention. Once recorded and stored, we can then efficiently manage an active long-term preservation programme.

During this time, we will also be establishing collection care protocols, which, informed by best practice, will, for the first time ever, ensure that there is an ongoing programme of checking and monitoring the condition of the entire collection.

The new curatorial team, drawn from existing Archive and other bfi curators, and supplemented by subject and technical experts we are recruiting, will play the key role in identifying and drawing out the treasures of the collection. The taxpayer rightly demands that we not only properly store and preserve the Archive collection, but that we increasingly make it available for public admiration.

Digital access technologies will make it easier to increase visibility of the Archive collection, and through new plans for regional archive portals, and other online outlets, we are planning to sustain and grow further awareness and appreciation of the Archive. Whilst continuing traditional technical approaches to film preservation, like all Archives, we must prepare and equip ourselves to protect new film which is increasingly produced in digital formats.

We believe that this focus on nurturing both technical and curatorial skills could be enhanced further through a relationship with the formal education sector. Our vision is the creation of a 'centre of excellence', where innovation, scholarship and archive practice meet. Over the coming months we intend to explore the options for a formal partnership, which would allow us to improve research capability, and establish higher training standards for the benefit of a much larger national and international community.

To support these plans, it is necessary to make changes in the way we work at the Archive and this will involve some job losses. But by introducing new management systems, flexible working practices, enhanced training of staff, recruitment of new skilled staff, and rigorous, responsible planning, we believe strongly that these are the right decisions for the future. This is a real plan for growth and vitality.

The NFTVA is one of the great moving image treasures of the world, both in size, scope and content. The Archive is more than a repository of the past - it is a vibrant hub of activity. We believe strongly that we are making the right prudent steps, creating a forward plan for the growth and enhanced vitality of the Archive.