Programming with archives: A guide to The Box’s South West moving image collection

The Box is Plymouth’s major new museum, gallery and archive – readily available for Film Hub South West Members to access.  

With the New Directions fund currently open for applications, find out more information about your local archive, and how you can access materials in The Box’s collection to develop audience facing programmes. 

Who are we?

In 2016, the former Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery began a £46 million capital redevelopment, completely transforming and extending the Edwardian building with the former City Library building and St Luke’s church. For the first time, six national collections have been brought together under one roof. Spanning everything from archaeology to fine art, social, maritime and natural history, local records and studies and much more. One of the stars in this creative constellation is The Box’s photographic and moving image collections.  

Our moving image collections, formerly held by the South West Film and Television Archive (SWFTA), comprised of more than 250,000 titles maintained in their original, digital and born-digital formats. As one of the largest regional film archives in the UK, The Box is recognised nationally as a significant screen heritage collection. Preserved in specialist cold and freezer stores they document many changes in the city and region from the late 1890s to the present day.  

What’s in The Box?  

Much of our moving image collection can be seen embedded across the galleries at The Box. It takes particular pride of place in our ‘Media Lab’ which charts the progression of media and moving image in the South West with displays featuring our Westward and Television South West collection.  

The Boxes collection includes a vast selection of films from the very first Charles Urban travelogue – shot here in the South West in 1898 – to early experimental film clips of the immediate post-1900s era, such as the earliest colour film in the collection captured a few weeks before the outbreak of war in 1939. Other highlights include rare wartime home movies and still images, and an almost complete body of programmes and news titles broadcast by Westward and Television South West (TSW).  

Expanding our archive further, we are developing a contemporary collection, with digital images and film showing the continued changes within the region today.  

‘The Box on the Box’ – How local communities engaged with the archive in 2020  

The collection has inspired a range of engaging projects involving local communities. In 2020, it saw the launch of ‘The Box on The Box’ – a new initiative that live streamed content from our archives direct into care homes across the city during lockdown. People joined in from a variety of settings including NHS Wards and as part of memory loss (amongst other) support groups.  

By the end of 2020, ‘The Box on The Box’ had been watched 3,000 times and was a finalist within the Public Sector Transformation Awards. It is currently available as ‘The Box on Screen’ with episodes released monthly on our YouTube channel – you can watch the first episode here.

How can Film Hub South West Members use The Box in their programmes?   

We invite Film Hub South West members to dive into our moving image collection and consider how they might want to make use of The Box’s dynamic material. If you’re interested in accessing our moving image collection, the BFIPlayer is a great place to start with over 800 of our digitised clips available to view free of charge.   

To submit a request or enquiry for something in the collection, please visit our Image and Film Service webpage, where you will be able to access links to our collection, download an enquiry form, make contact with us and access copies of our rate cards.    

We offer discounts to Film Hub South West members, projects, and activities; so please be sure to let us know if you are a member and provide as much detail of the project or activity as possible.  

It’s a good idea to send your enquiry e-mail to us with plenty of time – it can take up to 15 working days for us to respond to your request when our service is busy. Our team will then get back to you with more information about what is available along with associated costs for use.  

Words by Chloe Hughes, Engagement Programmes Manager at The Box

New Directions: Funding for archive film events that connect the past with the present

A group of seated people watch a projection in a room bathed in pink and purple light

New Directions is a programme supporting archive film events that retrace the historic steps that have brought the UK to its current political and cultural crossroads. It is open to all Film Hub South West and Film Audience Network (FAN) members.

Taking place from July – November 2021New Directions will support screenings that explore pivotal moments of modern history where the people of the UK tried to break with the past, change direction or embark on new journeys.

Funding is available for archive film events and repertory feature screenings which reflect on our past, connect with the present and illuminate the future. Subjects to explore might include the UK’s geopolitical journey from the end of the Empire to Brexit, the human experiences behind major domestic projects such as the founding of the NHS, or stories of immigration and the UK’s diverse communities.

Find out more and check out the New Directions Creative Brief for more information on the theme and suggested viewing to kick-start your archive projects on Film Hub North’s website.

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