Recently I went on a visit to the first ever BFI Mediatheque in Scotland, which is located in Bridgeton Library at the Olympia, Glasgow. The BFI Mediatheque is a free resource that lets you make new film discoveries and get reacquainted with old favourites, free of charge. All you need to do is log on to a viewing station and you can chose from a range of highlights from the BFI National Archive and partner archives across the UK.
Bridgeton Library moved to its new home on the ground floor of the former Olympia cinema complex, back in December 2012. It is a bright and welcoming space, which has zoned areas, such as a training suite, children’s library and the BFI Mediatheque room. It also has a “Turning Pages” station, onto which the library is very keen to add local content, thereby encouraging the public to interact with new technology. Bridgeton is a deprived area on the east side of Glasgow, which is in the process of being re-developed and rejuvenated.
The BFI Mediatheque @ Bridgeton Library was launched just over a year ago, with its official public opening being held on Friday 22nd February. It contains over 2,000 films, including a specially commissioned collection of Scottish film and television from the BFI National Archive and Scottish Screen Archive, covering more than 100 titles of Scottish interest. Highlights include street scenes in Glasgow from 1901, early colour footage of tartans from 1906 and 1950s colour travelogues recording Scotland’s epic landscapes. A list of the Scottish Reels films is available, as well as a full list of film titles currently available to view in Mediatheques around the country. In addition, there is a hard-copy of the catalogue at Bridgeton Library.
In Bridgeton Library’s BFI Mediatheque in both the search and browse functions results from the Scottish Reels collection appears at the top, due to it being of more local interest. In total, there are 77 collections containing such items as feature films, TV programmes and documentaries. The BFI add 18 to 20 new items every 2 months and items can be suggested by users, as long as the material is British.
There has been a very good uptake for the Scottish BFI Mediatheque, but there is some room for improvement. Many researchers and students use the resource, especially those studying film and media. People find it easy to use the resource once they have a go. Even older people who do not have experience of using the internet can get to grips with the resource quickly. Some introductory workshops have been run and these have been very well received.
There is a real focus on getting more of the general public, and school children especially, to use the resource. With the Scottish Curriculum for Excellence in mind, work has been undertaken on the development of guides and resources for pupils, for example putting together WW1 resources for schools.
An events programme, called ‘Discover Film at Bridgeton Library BFI Mediatheque‘ has been running from November and finishes in June this year. This includes ‘Page to Screen’ held on the first Monday of the month to enable people to discover the secrets of great screen adaptations and the original works they are based on and ‘Reel Essentials’ held on the second Thursday of the month which introduces key moments, movements, themes and genres in British Film and Television. Unfortunately, there has not been as great a take-up as hoped so far. Another issue to be addressed is the filling of identified gaps in the collections, especially items on the local area.
Using the BFI Mediatheque
There are two main ways of using the resource.
- Browse archived collections. There is a brief biography for each item. You can view the item on the full screen or you can hit escape and do further research whilst watching.
- Detailed search – Filtering your search using basic or advanced terms. Title; Year; Director; Cast; Subject Term; Subject Region or nation. Subject terms range from ‘Advertisements’ through to ‘Youth Culture’.
They also provide suggestions on what you might like to look at (‘Why not try…’).
The BFI Mediatheque room is built to BFI’s specification, with ten viewing stations available. In general, you don’t have to book to use a viewing station, but it may be best to if there is a group. Opening hours are the same as that for Bridgeton Library.
BFI Mediatheques give everyone easy access to a diverse range of film and television, in many cases rarely seen since their original release or broadcast. There are 8 BFI Mediatheques in the UK, each with their own collection of local interest brought together in partnership with local film archives. To find out where your nearest BFI Mediatheque is located and what collections they hold take a look on the BFI website.
Items of Scottish Interest in MediaHub
If you are not able to visit the BFI Mediatheque at Bridgeton Library or would like to see more items of Scottish interest then take a look at MediaHub’s Films of Scotland collection. This contains 125 items (50 hours in total) from the Scottish Screen Archive at the National Library of Scotland, some of which forms part of the Scottish BFI Mediatheque’s Scottish Reels collection. One of the most coherent local and national film collections in the UK, Films of Scotland charts the changing face of Scotland from the 1930s to 1982. One example is a film called ‘Scotland for Fitness‘ made in 1938 for the Empire Exhibition, part of a campaign to improve the fitness of the Scots.
There are also items on Scotland found in other Jisc MediaHub collections. As the Commonwealth Games is taking place this year in Glasgow one particularly interesting item is a ‘Commonwealth Games Preview‘ from the ITV Late Evening News Collection, which reports on the 9th Commonwealth Games which was held in 1970 in Edinburgh.
There are a wealth of resources available on Scotland and the rest of the UK, which can be easily accessed. We hope that this post encourages you to go and visit one of the BFI Mediatheques, as well as explore more of what MediaHub has to offer.