BFI National Archive

The BFI National Archive is a department of the British Film Institute, and one of the largest film archives in the world. It was originally set up as the National Film Library in 1935; its first curator was Ernest Lindgren. In 1955, its name became the National Film Archive, and in 1992, the National Film and Television Archive. It was renamed BFI National Archive in 2006.

It collects, preserves, restores and then shares the films and television programmes which have helped to shape and record British life and times since cinema was invented in the late 19th century. The majority of the collection is British material, but it also features internationally significant holdings from around the world. The Archive also collects films which feature key British actors and the work of British directors.

The collections themselves are accommodated on several sites. The J. Paul Getty, Jr. Conservation Centre in Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire, named after its benefactor, is the base for much of the work, while approximately 140 million feet of flammable nitrate film and all the master film collection held on acetate or other media is kept separately at a BFI storage site at Gaydon in Warwickshire.

Film preservation is an ongoing project among filmmakers, historians, archivists, museums, and non-profit organisations to rescue aging film stock and preserve recorded images. The collections held at the BFI National Archive were started in 1935 by Ernest Lindgren, the first curator of what was then called the National Film Library. It later changed its name to National Film Archive (1955-1992) and National Film and Television Archive (1992-2006). It now comprises over 275,000 feature, non-fiction and short films (dating from 1894) and 210,000 television programmes. In recent years the Conservation Centre has completed a number of much anticipated restorations of a diverse range of film titles. This has included the Mitchell and Kenyon collection, which consists almost entirely of actuality films commissioned by travelling fairground operators for showing at local fairgrounds or other venues across the U.K. in the early part of the twentieth century.

Films and television programmes are acquired mainly by donation or, in the case of independent television, via funding direct from the TV companies. Emphasis is placed on British productions but whenever possible important and popular movies from overseas are also acquired.

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