British Universities Film & Video Council

moving image and sound, knowledge and access


The BFI National Archive (formerly known as The National Film and Television Archive) began its existence in May 1935 in fulfillment of one of the ten aims of the British Film Institute, to ‘maintain a national repository of films of permanent value’. Its role is to select, acquire, preserve, document and make available for research, study and screening a collection of films and television programmes of all kinds, exhibited and transmitted in the UK, of both British and foreign origin. As no law of statutory deposit for film, television and video production exists yet in the UK, material is acquired primarily by voluntary donation. The Archive’s main source of finance is from the BFI’s annual government grant, although it also receives funding from the independent television companies for the preservation of ITV, Channel 4 and Five programmes.
Feature films; Animated films; Newsreels; World War II; Newsfilm; Advertising films; Drama; Theatre; Sport; Propaganda; Ballet; Shakespeare, William; Military forces; Transport; Wars; Amateur films; Cinemagazines; World War I; Education; Television programmes; Documentary films; Parliament, Great Britain; Industries; Time-lapse films; Avant garde films; Cricket, sport; British Gas plc; British Steel Ltd; British Transport; Courtaulds Ltd; Dance, theatre; National Coal Board; Olympic Games, sport; Science; Television drama series; Television films; Television plays
Access available. Mon-Fri 10.00-17.30, by arrangement. Staff are available to assist. Access for disabled. Lift in the building. Disabled toilet. Three sections - Research Viewing Service, Footage Sales, Donor Access - handle access to the holdings. In all cases access can only be provided subject to the Archive’s preservation rules being observed and any necessary copyright clearance being obtained in advance.
1. Research Viewing Service: The Research Viewing Service caters for private viewings by bona fide researchers and students on the Archive’s premises for which a handling fee is charged. The Archive’s viewing print collection is by no means complete, but a continuous, systematic copying programmes ensures that most actual and potential demands are met. The Viewings Supervisor, who arranges access to the Archive’s film and television collections, is available for consultation at 21 Stephen Street, London W1T 1LN, Monday to Friday, between 10.30 and 17.30.
2. Archive Footage Sales: This service supplies extracts from the Archive’s collection to film and television programmes makers for use in new productions when no other source exists. Enquiries should be made to the Archival Footage Sales Officer at Stephen Street, who will arrange catalogue consultation, viewing, marking up and processing and provide a full scale of charges on request.
3. Donor Access: This section handles requests from donors for access to their own material and from copyright holders and authorised third parties wishing to purchase copies of films preserved in the Archive. Enquiries should be addressed to the Donor Access Officer at Stephen Street.
Viewing on premises of VHS as well as 16mm and 35mm steenbecks.
Charges for research for broadcast productions. Charges for facilities and handling. There is a charge for viewing. Handling fees vary according to the use of the material.
Copyright not held. Footage sales can advise on copyright clearance when extracts from the Archives are being used in a production. The National Film and Television Archive does not operate a general copyright enquiry service.

Moving Image, Audio and Related Documentation Holdings

Video: See film holdings.Advertising, amateur, documentary, feature films, news and current affairs, science and education.
Video components: VHS Video, S-VHS Video,DVD, 8mm Video, hi-8, hi-band U-Matic, lo-band U-Matic, Beta/Beta-SP, 1-inch Video, 2-inch Video.
Film: In July 2000 the Archive’s total holdings were c.350,000 titles, comprising feature and fiction films, shorts, documentaries, television programmes, newsreels, animation and amateur films, on the full range of film gauges and videotape formats and spanning the period from 1895 to the present day. Specialist collections such as sport, advertising films, political propaganda and material from industrial companies such as Courtaulds, British Steel, National Coal Board and British Transport form an important element of the Archive’s collection. The National Film and Television Archive also has official responsibility for acquiring selected public record films made by governmental organisations and is now the permanent repository for all videotaped Parliamentary proceedings. Advertising, amateur, documentary, feature films, news and current affairs, science and education.
Film components: The Archive holds 90% of all formats, e.g. 8mm, Super 8mm, 9.5mm, 16mm, Super 16, 35mm, positive film, negative film, fine grain print, effects mix, final mix, etc.


Computerised database
Available. Since January 1999 a computerised subject indexing system has been implemented, replacing the card indexes.
Related website
SIFT will soon be available freely online. Currently film information from SIFT is online via Film Index International subject to Athens authentication or subscription.
Printed catalogue
Printed catalogue for parts of the collection only, i.e. there is no complete printed catalogue of the Archive’s holdings.
Card catalogue
Available, indexed.

Additional Information

Our Curatorial team can assist with searches of the collection by title, series, credits or cast. Additionally searching by subject is possible on some parts of the collection.

We will seek to put researchers in touch with the appropriate contact point for access to the collection - whether they are looking to view material for research, locate a title for a screening or find clips for use in a production. If the archive does not hold the relevant material we will endeavour to suggest other lines of enquiry where appropriate.

We cannot usually make copies of materials held by the archive. Non-commercial researchers and students can make use of our Research Viewing Service to view material by appointment on bfi premises.

Catalogues featuring selective archival holdings and titles distributed by the bfi can be browsed online. Researchers and students can also arrange to visit our London offices to carry out research on the archive’s holdings. Please contact us to arrange an appointment.
Other information
The Archive also cares for the BFI’s extensive collection of stills, posters and designs.
Conservation policy
To select, acquire, preserve, document and make available for research, study and screening a collection of films and television programmes of all kinds, exhibited and transmitted in the UK, of both British and foreign origin.

Main Contact

Curatorial Archive Team
020 7255 1444 (switchboard)
21 Stephen Street

Record Stats

This record has been viewed 4072 times.