1. Strategy
  2. Our ambitions
  3. Reframing the public’s relationship with the nation’s screen heritage

Reframing the public’s relationship with the nation’s screen heritage

By 2033, we will have established the BFI National Archive as the most open moving image collection in the world.

We want to unlock the value and expertise of one of the world’s greatest collections of screen heritage and find new ways to communicate our experts’ knowledge, skills and passion for the moving image.

We will transform public access and education through the Screen Archive of the Future. We will safeguard the future record of our artform and fulfil our global leadership potential. We will invest in a digital-ready and diverse UK-wide screen heritage workforce.

Why now?

The BFI National Archive brings together the national collections of film and television. It encompasses a multimedia library, paper and moving image format collections, and already stands as one of the world’s greatest collections of its kind.

It is powered by our industry-leading practice in digital and analogue preservation and film restoration. It is also fuelled by our work with the international community, especially via FIAF and FIAT/IFTA, and our decades of curatorial and librarianship expertise.

For the best part of 90 years, we have recorded the evolution of the moving image. Our multimedia collections span celluloid formats, tape, digital media, paper collections, photography and more.

In recent years, the BFI National Archive has developed new ways of making screen heritage available online. This allows audiences to experience the vitality of the moving image. Most notably, Britain on Film has reached a landmark 90m views, and our new BFI Replay service is available in public libraries UK-wide. We have consistently sought out the research and investment needed to gather partners around these national projects.

However, we are yet to realise the true potential of our collections in terms of public engagement and education. This especially applies to people who cannot visit our sites in London and the South East.

For example, over 70,000 titles in our mediatheque are only accessible to in-person visitors at BFI Southbank and 5,000 BFI Replay titles are only available on site in libraries. The bulk of titles across our Britain on Film and BFI Player platforms are currently restricted to viewing from the UK and Ireland only.

We have strived to develop these platforms and products. However, securing the essential ongoing resource to operate and iterate them into the future is proving a challenge. We do not have platforms available for teachers and educators, lifelong learners or young people and children in education. That obstructs access to both our cultural programmes and the national collections. This is despite the depth and breadth of the collections’ content on the history and impact of film and the moving image.

Such restricted exposure limits our range and depth of connection with a wider audience. The national story told in the collections cannot enter a UK-wide conversation when there are such limited access routes. We believe these stories cannot remain untold; they need to be shared and seen.

As the moving image evolves, new challenges have become clear: from copyright legislation that lags behind the digital era to the explosion in online content creation. Ever-changing, platforms and formats create barriers to collecting UK works for the national collection.

Finally, training and retaining a digital-ready screen heritage workforce is our latest challenge. Today, there is nowhere in the UK to qualify in film preservation, and no certified route for learning film archiving or projection skills. We are on the brink of a specialist workforce shortage that threatens to leave a blank space in the record of the moving image.

It’s more important than ever that we make opportunities for everyone to use, work with, learn from and enjoy our national screen heritage. This means working UK-wide and with others to build and deliver the next national strategy for moving image collections.

How we’ll do it

Over the next 10 years, we will increase access to the BFI National Archive. We will usher in a new age of education and engagement with the nation’s screen heritage.

Our goals are:

  • To create engaging new ways for a broader audience to interact with our collections. This will include a new public-facing experience for both digital and in-person visitors.
  • To raise the public profile of the BFI National Archive as a vital part of UK screen culture, and to improve the UK-wide use of our materials by educators.
  • To ensure that the diversity and breadth of contemporary screen works are being collected, preserved and made accessible in the national collection. This includes working with government, rightsholders and engaging industry to find solutions for collecting and improving public access, such as consideration of a legal deposit system.
  • To secure a solid and broader revenue base for the BFI National Archive. This includes making it more self-sufficient and encouraging support from the wider industry.
  • To co-create a national screen heritage strategy to safeguard and unlock the screen heritage collections around the UK, alongside our nationwide partner archives. This will feature equity, diversity and inclusion and environmental sustainability at its heart.

In the first three years, we will:

  1. Establish the business case for the Screen Archive of the Future, a major new engagement project to greatly enhance opportunities for the public outside of London and the South East. It will promote the public enjoyment, education, creative reuse and research of our collections, including our extensive paper-based materials.
  2. Identify funding opportunities and develop academic partnerships. We will use our IRO status to conduct new research with the collections and consolidate our reputation for partnership and innovation in digital preservation.
  3. Agree a talent, skills and training plan to support and diversify vital heritage skills. This will include conservation, restoration and projection.
  4. Evolve and consolidate the digital platforms and products we use for collections’ discovery and interpretation. This includes the in-person mediatheque experience, our BFI Replay platform in UK public libraries, Britain on Film and collections search interfaces.