British Universities Film & Video Council

moving image and sound, knowledge and access

UNIVERSITY OF EXETER BILL DOUGLAS CENTRE for the History of Cinema and Popular Culture

Lower gallery of the Bill Douglas Centre
The University of Exeter is committed to teaching and research in a broad range of disciplines, including film. The Bill Douglas Centre is a Registered university museum, administered within the Special Collections Section of Academic Services. The Bill Douglas Centre collection consists of all types of artefacts, books and archival material relating to the history of the cinema and pre-cinema (which includes Georgian and Victorian visual media such as magic lanterns, zoetropes, panorama, shadow show, etc). The Centre itself does not collect films, but does acquire anything relating to them. The collection of pre-cinema artefacts and texts is one of the best in the country. Within those materials which relate to the history of cinema, there are important collections of sheet music from films, biographies of film stars and directors, film annuals, fiction connected to the film industry, film stills, postcards, posters and cigarette cards. Other items include toys linked to films, a good library of technical film books (especially from the early years of the century), film scripts, academic histories and critical studies, and a wide range of periodicals. The Centre also collects material relating to television (books, fan
material,papers) and there a small amount of holdings related to radio and theatre. Although the collection is very diverse there is a unifying theme at its heart - the audience’s experience of the moving image and how that experience is mediated.
Artefact description
The collection of the Bill Douglas Centre for the history of cinema and popular culture is one of the UK’s leading publicly accessible resources for screen heritage. This includes the largest library of film history in any UK university, as well as a vast archive of prints, ephemera and artefacts and film industry archives.
Cinema; Film music; Film Equipment; Early cinema
The museum galleries are open from 9-5pm, Monday to Friday (except University closure days). There is a dedicated Special Collections Reading Room on the same site where everyone interested in the collections can consult material from the Centre. The Reading Room is open 10am-1pm & 2-5pm, Monday to Friday. The Centre’s online and image rich catalogue is available at
Access for outsiders
Galleries open Mon-Fri, 1000-1600. Research Centre Mon-Fri, 1000-1300 and 1400-1700.

Moving Image, Audio and Related Documentation Holdings

approx 17,000
circa 100
approx 15,000
approx 5,400
approx 200
approx 3,500 records and pieces of sheet music
approx 200
approx 700
Still Images
approx 4,000

Artefact and Related Documentation Holdings

The Centre’s holdings cover the long history of the moving image. Amongst the earliest items in the collection are shadow puppets from China, Turkey and Java, representing shadow play. At the other end of the spectrum, the Centre holds puppets and animatronic models used to market contemporary films, like Toy Story.; Animatronic models; Animation artwork and cels; Puppets, models and armatures
The Collection functions as a ‘popular storehouse’ of the folk-memory of film and film fans. It includes memorabilia of cinema going, like tickets, cinema signs, uniforms, programmes and free marketing gimmicks like 3-d glasses for film-viewing. The Centre boasts a wide variety of material relating to the invention of cinema and its pre-history.; Cinema fittings
This group of material represents a vast part of the Centre’s holdings, which can be sub-divided into artefacts relating to film memorabilia and the personal working archives of key British film-makers. Memorabilia forms one of the most substantial categories in the museum’s holding, ranging chronologically from the birth of cinema to present day. Just to give a taster of scope, for the glory days of British cinema the museum holds 400 cinema and film publicity programmes, including some from the very first adaptations of Dickens and Shakespeare on film; over 50 campaign books for films and studios; numerous postcards and photographs of early British stars; extensive library, including biographies and histories of the period; and film posters for various productions. Hollywood coverage is equally well represented, with 400 postcards of locations in Los Angeles and Hollywood, including many of homes of the stars; 120 books on Hollywood and Los Angeles; maps and guides to the homes of the stars; assorted ceramic memorabilia; several hundred programmes; sheet music linked to the films; thousands of stills from films of the period; extensive collection of fiction produced as film tie-ins; historical and critical books on the films of the period; hundreds of film posters and issues of fan magazines, concentrating on the films and stars of the period; hundreds of items campaign material, produced by the studios for press releases and press packs and other related memorabilia, such as toys and ceramics To give an indication of the scope of this aspect of the museum’s holdings, one gallery is dedicated to British and Hollywood film memorabilia. Charlie Chaplin is probably the best represented film star, with over 800 objects in the collection. More recently the Centre has begun collecting the personal working archives of key British film industry figures. This includes the archives of Don Boyd, Gavrik Losey, James Mackay and Ossie Morris, which together form a major research resource of about the production processes, finances and workings of the contemporary British film industry.; Contracts; Catalogues; Correspondence; Cue sheets; Lobby cards; Equipment manuals; Sheet music; Scripts and treatments; Storyboards; Posters and promotional artwork; Photographs; Promotional literature; Other production documentation; Ephemera
There are a few examples of art works, including original artwork by Ronald Searle for St Trinians and other films, and some examples of holographic images.; Art works; Holograms
Projection & Viewing
This group of material represents one of the strongest areas of the museum’s holdings, as they were a personal interest of the film-maker Bill Douglas, who co-founded the collection. The collection includes: 23 magic lanterns - ranging from large lecturer’s lanterns to domestic and toy lanterns, including the Lapièrre lantern carried by the lanternist character in Bill Douglas’s \"Comrades\"; 650 lantern slides, ranging from early wood-framed slides to photographic slides and slides for toy lanterns; 40 prints showing lanterns and/or lanternists; 200 books related to lanterns and lantern slides; 150 postcards related to lantern slides; more than 50 handbills, programmes and posters for lantern shows; several lanternist figurines and crockery showing lanternists and various accessories for lanternists such as reading lamps and slide carriers. In terms of stereoscopes, viewmasters and stereoviews, the Centre holds 5 Holmes type stereoscopes; 3 Brewster type stereoscopes; 8 folding or portable stereoscopes; numerous Vistascreens, Viewmasters and reels; 100 stereo transparencies; more than 1,500 stereo cards with assorted views; and 30 books related to the history of stereography and the 3D image. The collection also extends to artefacts relating to early photography, including an Eadweard Muybridge stereocard produced under the pseudonym ‘Helios’; an edition of Leland Stanford and Dr J. D. B. Stillman’s The Horse in Motion; an offprint of Muybridge’s paper ‘The Attitudes of Animals in Motion, illustrated with the Zoopraxiscope’ given to the Royal Institution in 1882, personally dedicated \"to Prince Roland Bonaparte with the homage of The Author\"; first editions of Eadweard Muybridge’s Animals in Motion and Humans in Motion; and Étienne-Jules Marey autographed letters; George Eastman autographed biography by Charles W. Ackerman. Artefacts of popular moving image entertainments are a particular strength of the collection, which includes peepshow items like peep eggs, stanhope viewers, a working mutoscope and hundreds of printed ephemera items relating to this group of materials. With regret, the Centre does not have a kinetoscope, but it can boast a rare menu card from the first private view of the kinetoscope in London in 1894, as well as William Laurie Dickson’s personal annotated copy of \"The History of the Kinetoscope, Kinetograph and Kinetophonograph\".; Accessories; Magic lanterns; Flick books and associated technologies; Peepshows; Slides; Slide projectors; Slide viewers; Other viewers; Stereoviews
Sets & Costumes
A small range of items chiefly associated with film production and marketing. Typical to other parts of the collection, the holdings range from in-depth research resources, including set lists, photographs and sketches of the cinematographer Ossie Morris, to popular culture ephemera like make-up and cigarettes produced to market individual film stars.; Make-up; Set designs
Toys & Games
Optical toys form another key strength of the holdings. Highlights include 3 thaumatrope sets and related items; an original phenakistiscope; two praxinoscopes and a praxinoscope theatre; several zoetropes; kaleidoscopes and numerous optical illusions. The artefact collections are complemented by extensive print holdings. These nineteenth and early twentieth century optical toys are augmented by a large collection of more contemporary toys, figurines, board games, jigsaws, etc., relating to the popular culture of moving image which represent film culture up to the present day.; Optical toys; Toys


Computerised database
Yes. Complete inventory (some catalogued) on MICROSOFT ACCESS available at the Centre. The Centre’s online database is an image rich catalogue of its print and artefact collections, which includes moving animations of key exhibits, like zoescopes and panoramas. The Centre’s personal archives of film industry figures are listed on the University’s archive catalogue:
Online catalogue
Related website
Digitised catalogue
No. Plans for eventual digitisation.
Online delivery

Additional Information

Artefact notes
The Centre uses the SPECTRUM standard for print and artefact collections and follows ISAD(G) for archival holdings.

Main Contact

Phil Wickham
Job title
01392 264321
01392 263871
The Old Library
Prince of Wales Road

Alternate Contact


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