LONDON — The British Film Institute has inked a deal with IT giant Hewlett-Packard that will see treats from the BFI’s encyclopedic archive made available to the public, much of it for the first time since it originally screened.
An initial 200 hours of digital clips from the BFI vaults will be available to view for free at a Mediatheque viewing lounge powered by HP at the BFI’s refurbished Southbank HQ when it opens in March.
The partnership was launched by BFI chair Anthony Minghella and Steve Gill, VP and managing director of HP UK & Ireland, at the BFI Imax cinema in London on Thursday.
The BFI national archive goes back to the earliest days of film and contains over 230,000 movies and 675,000 TV shows, including historic footage of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II and England’s one and only soccer World Cup win in 1966.
The digital partnership, which BFI and HP brass both said would hopefully extend beyond the initial two year deal, is part of a wider plan by the BFI to restore and digitalize parts of the archive and make it more accessible to Brit auds.
And it comes in the nick of time with the archives increasingly threatened by the ravages of time.
“Without the correct care, acetate film can turn to vinegar, and, like an infection, it can spread from film can to can,” warned Richard Paterson, head of BFI strategic development. Nitrate film is similarly vulnerable as it is highly flammable.
Parts of the 24-acre archive, located in North London “looks like Pompeii after the volcano,” joked Minghella, who stressed the massive cultural importance of the archive, and which “demonstrates the pungent and indelible power of film … today’s blockbusters are tomorrow’s archive.”
“This partnership represents another important first step in the long-term investment we are making in the care of and access to the BFI national archive,” said Amanda Nevill, BFI director. “It is a great example of culture and commerce working together innovatively to increase public value.”
HP has worked with DreamWorks, Sony and Warner Brothers Stateside and this partnership with BFI reps a move to engage more closely with the British film industry.