From Tom Harris
When most members hear the word ‘archive’ they think of filing cabinets full of paperwork. However, that is only part of the story. The paper archive consists of equipment drawings, manuals, publicity pamphlets and photographs. All of which require filing in different sections. Then there are the magazines and periodicals followed by various books and annuals.
Similarly, equipment has to be sorted and logged. Projectors are easy to do but the ancillary pieces such as lenses, lamps, and mirrors are not so straight forward. For example, lenses have to be not only set out in their various sizes but also in quality. There are the newer ones that we can use for screenings and being made by Schneider or Isco are arranged in 5mm increments. Then there are the older ones used for authenticity on restored machines and being made by Taylor Hobson or Ross are in ¼ inch steps. Following from the backing/prime lenses are the anamorphics, both prismatic and cylindrical.
Over these last few weeks I have made a start on sorting and cataloguing all the 35mm film we have. Having spent a long time in D-Block at Bletchley many of the cans are affected by rust and have to be prised open and often then thrown away. To date I have managed to discover that we have several complete features and many part features. Hopefully, as I dig deeper we can put together more. Then there are reels and reels of shorts followed by hundreds of trailers.
So far, I have spent the last two years doing this and there is no end in sight. Having said that one of our aims is to make the archive accessible to researchers as soon as possible as there is no point in having an archive if it is not. Even though there is plenty yet to do it is hoped that the archive will be accessible when the Cutting Room preview theatre will be completed and ready for use.
When I posted a picture of some unsorted cans of film in Rewind, which had in fact come up from Deluxe, an eagle eyed member at the BFI recognised some of the cans marked 47467AG as one of their features missing since 1999. The film was in fact Splendour in the Grass and disappeared after a screening in Derby.
They contacted us and we searched the archives to see if the rest of the copy was there as in the photograph there were only two reels. I am pleased to say we did have the complete feature - be it in various places on the shelves - and were able to reunite the copy with its rightful owner.