The Society has been awarded a major new grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to preserve, restore and digitise its film collection.
The 145 films, housed at the British Film Institute (BFI), represent a unique record of British scientific exploration and geographical documentary film-making over a period of 57 years, from 1922 to1979. The HLF grant will ensure public access across the breadth of the collection, including through the BFI’s online Media Player service.
The collection is unique to the Society and includes a mix of amateur and professional film, often created by the Society’s Fellows or those involved in projects supported by the Society. Digitising the Society’s film collection will ensure its protection and security for the future, including the transfer of film stock which is of a deteriorating quality, creating a legacy for future generations of users in the United Kingdom and the wider world.
Individual films in the collection record places and peoples around the world and provide a valuable record of lost or vanishing cultures and geographical locations undergoing significant change – from Baghdad and Teheran to the high Arctic. Other aspects of the collection, for example those items connected to early attempts to reach the summit of Everest, link to the Society’s wider Collections and role supporting field expeditions.
The film collection also includes material which is of specific relevance to black and minority ethnic (BME) communities. The Society has developed a successful programme of public engagement specifically with BME community groups and individuals, and the film collection will enhance existing relationships and enable new community engagement activities to be undertaken. For example, amateur film of Rajputana Jhawalar Bundi and Katalaki dancers, are of specific interest to Asian community groups exploring the influence of street culture. And a 1943 film of Peshawar, Kabul, Herat and Meshed, will enable the Society to further its work in partnership with British Afghan community groups.
Work will be completed by the end of 2016, with programming and access from early 2017.