The BFI National Archive is a department of the British Film Institute, and one of the largest film archives in the world. It was founded 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 shares the films and television programmes which have helped to shape and record British life and times since the development of cine film in the late 19th century. The majority of the collection is British originated 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 restoration work, while approximately 140 million feet of unstable 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 deteriorating film stock and preserve the recorded image. 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. Other notable recent restorations include:
The collections held at the BFI National Archive were begun in 1935 by Ernest Lindgren, the first curator of what was then known as the National Film Library. The BFI National Archive now comprises over 275,000 feature, non-fiction and short films (dating from 1894) and 210,000 television programmes. It is one of the largest and most prestigious film collections in the world. Notable collections include:
The archive holds 20,000 silent films including, Cecil Hepworth's Alice in Wonderland (1903), and actively collects artists' moving images. In addition to moving image materials the Special Collections hold the records of filmmakers and institutions. Significant collections include:
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.