by Erinn Batykefer

Preserving film is a notoriously tricky business.  The material itself is delicate, degrades easily, and the conditions that best preserve it are difficult to maintain.  Now, exciting leaps in technology allow films to be produced digitally–in just ten years, the miles of physical film Peter Jackson used to create The Lord of the Rings have given way to The Hobbit’s digital production– but preserving film history remains a top priority for cultural institutions like the British Film Institute’s National Film and Television Archive.  Though Britain is a small country with a relatively small film output, the Archive preserves all of it, including everything produced for the BBC, plus a massive collection of British and International films.

About the BFI National Archive:

Established in 1935, the BFI National Archive is one of the largest film and television collections anywhere. Dating from the earliest days of film to the 21st century, it contains nearly a million titles. Using the latest preservation methods, we care for a variety of often obsolete formats so that future generations can enjoy their film heritage. We also respond to all research requests for archive materials.

The BFI released a video in June that allows even those of us across the pond to take a virtual tour of the National Archive.  The tour offers a rare glimpse into the workings of the Archives’ conservation center in Berkhamsted, England, where films are processed and preserved before moving to their permanent home in a new facility with a sub-zero vault that keeps films between -4 and -5 degrees to preserve them for hundreds of years. Check it out:

British Film Institute National Archive Tour from Ned Thanhouser on Vimeo.

Want more?

Find the latest BFI exhibitions and shows, like the London Film Festival | What’s On

Explore the British Film Institute’s collections and exhibitions online | British Film Institute

Learn more about the Archive’s holdings, including posters and original scripts | BFI Archive & collections

Follow the British Film Institute and Site and Sound Magazine on Twitter | @BFI, @SightandSoundMag

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