Sound and vision blog

13 April 2011

The BFI and the British Library

I'm delighted to be able to report the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the British Film Institute and the British Library.

The objective of the MoU is to increase public, professional and research access to audiovisual and broadcast content and integrating it with other knowledge collections. Integrating moving images with other media to enhance the research experience is central to the British Library's moving image plans. We don't need to build a new moving image archive for ourselves if there are constructive and mutually supportive ways in which we can work with existing moving image collections, and although we do have a modest moving image collection and plans to increase our moving image capabilities through a particular focus on news, the main target is to work with external collections. To this end we signed an MoU with the BBC in 2009 (as did the BFI earlier that year), the fruits of which we hope to be able to demonstrate to researchers in the not too distant future.

The MoU has been signed by BFI Director, Amanda Nevill and British Library CEO, Dame Lynne Brindley. It outlines key areas for joint strategic thinking, including public access, rights management and digitisation. Through a joint steering committee we will be exploring such areas as:

  • collecting policies;
  • contributing to IPR (intellectual property rights) and copyright discussions;
  • metadata and resource discovery;
  • how new digital technologies and enhanced physical spaces can improve access to film and television content;
  • digital and paper conservation;
  • exhibitions and public programmes;
  • and how both institutions can offer services for the creative industries.

It takes time to develop successful relationships between such organisations, and any fruits from such an understanding may take a while to grow. However, we will not be starting from square one. Over the past year, our two organisations have been collaborating as members of the UK Sound & Vision Collections group, convened in 2010 by the BFI to look at national audio-visual collection policy. A letter from the group announcing its formation was recently sent to Ed Vaizey, Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries. Other group members comprise the BBC, the National Archives, the Imperial War Museum, the National Media Museum, the National Library of Scotland, the National Library of Wales and National Museums Northern Ireland.

To have these bodies all sitting around the same table discussing how best to collect, care for and make accessible the UK audio-visual heritage (sound and moving image, please note) is not insignificant. Researchers of any kind have a right to expect good things from such a coming together, and it is our duty to live up to such expectations. Having the BFI and the British Library sign up to their own understanding is an important stage in what promises to be an exciting process.

Keep watching the screens.

British Library press release

British Film institute press release


A big step in the right diretion, Luke. Hope this works out. Keep the faith.


Thanks Deac. We're gradually putting the pieces of the puzzle together. This is one of those essentially corner pieces without which you're never going to see how the whole picture gets made.

Seems to add an important new chapter on sharing knowledge. Big heritage institutions tend to act as information monopolists with few incentives to cooperate. News about collaboration is often not so much about sharing as it is about dividing the market between them, like oligopolists do. I am looking forward to details about this great intention: "integrating it with other knowledge collections".

Points duly noted, Karel. Integration is the key, at least as far as I'm concerned. Implementation may take a while, but we'll get there.

Congratulations. And it's only 42 years since the audiovisual groups of Aslib and the Library Association, together with the National Council for Educational Technology, were arguing that this integration was a must. (Note for newbies: the Library Association--that was a professional group of what were still known as Librarians who staffed what were once known - pre-Thatcher - as Public (and other) Libraries and who disseminated information and helped find the right material for the right user at the right time.) Wonder where the next 42 years will take us. Doubt if there will be any public libraries left--pay for it online is where we're headed. Alas.

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