British Universities Film & Video Council

moving image and sound, knowledge and access


The Moving Image and Sound Collection is the largest of its kind in Europe. It is an excellent starting point for any researcher, educator, student or browser interested in witnessing the evolution of medicine and health over the past 100 years and wanting to engage with the use of media as a communication tool in the medical sciences.
As well as Wellcome-originated titles, material has been sourced from broadcast television programmes, departmental collections from universities (The University of London Audio-Visual Unit, Nuffield Department of Anaesthesia, Oxford), associations (Society for the Advancement of Anaesthesia in Dentistry), charities (Scope, formerly the Spastics Society) and eminent individuals (such as the Mellanbys) - to name but a few.
New acquisitions are added regularly

In addition, Wellcome Film is a new digital collection of moving images of 20th-century healthcare and medicine. Over 450 titles - 100 hours of film and video - have been transferred and are freely available online under Creative Commons licences.
Medicine; Veterinary science; Biomedicine; History of medicine; Tropical medicine; Moving image, audio and related documentation holdings
During office hours in the department by appointment or in the Library (extended opening hours; late Thursdays and Saturdays Access for disabled viewers.
Viewing on premises. Sales. Viewing facilities are available in the Wellcome Library on a first-come, first-served basis for VHS/DVD and cassette/CD, and by appointment for film and all other tape formats.
No fees to come in to view; please enquire about fees for obtaining viewing copies. Footage and audio; the material is available to license where permission/copyright can be granted. Over 400 titles are available for viewing and downloading under non-commercial Creative Commons licences;
The collection has © Wellcome Trust material, out-of-copyright material and material under licence as well as a large reference only collection for onsite access only. Copyright advice available. Copyright adviser: Angela Saward.

Moving Image, Audio and Related Documentation Holdings

Film components: 8mm, 9.5mm, 16mm, 35mm.
There are approximately 1500 broadcast and non-broadcast audio titles, mostly held as audiocassettes and CDs.
These include recordings of broadcast radio programmes on medical, biomedical and medical-historical topics. More current radio programming is readily available via the BBC’s iplayer service. The non-broadcast material includes recordings documenting relevant exhibitions, interviews, lectures, conferences, seminars and symposia, many of which have been organised by the Wellcome Trust.
Highlights of the collection include:
1890 recordings of Florence Nightingale’s appeal on behalf of the veterans of Balaclava
1954 recording of the ‘Tarantella’ - a musical therapy, in Italian, for people bitten by a tarantula
1945 A short audio interview with Alexander Fleming by the BBC where he speaks prophetically about the dangers of over-exposure to anti-biotics
1949: A series of programmes containing heart sounds and murmurs intended to aid the medical practitioner in the diagnosis of disease
The collection is currently being assessed for digitisation.
The 3500 video items represent many different formats from the earliest examples of ¼" open reel tape, 1" IVC, MII, U-Matic and then Betacam SP to Digibeta. The obsolete formats present a significant conservation challenge for the Library in the future.
The 1300 film items are mostly on 16mm - with a few examples on 8mm, 9.5mm and 35mm. The department has a 16mm Steenbeck and material on film can be appraised on this equipment - depending on its condition.
All our original material is kept in a temperature and humidity controlled environment.
Many of the titles on older video formats and film have been transferred to VHS or DVD for consultation in the library or the department. More recently, material has been encoded to a number of digital files for online access.
As well as a comprehensive collection of television programmes on health and medicine from the 1960s to the present day, highlights of the collection are:
60 titles, either made by the corporate arm of the organisation (Wellcome Foundation) or a smaller number in latter years by the charity itself. The earliest footage is of archaeological digs in the Sudan, at Jebel Moya, (or Gebel Moya) featuring the founder, Sir Henry Wellcome, himself ('A day at Gebel Moya, season 1912-13’), as well as more jaunty corporate fare about the business of running a pharmaceutical company (for example a lone example of the cinemagazine genre, entitled ‘Looking around’ or ‘The story of the Wellcome Foundation’). The collection also contains several awarding winning film titles produced by the Wellcome Trust Film Unit about tropical medicine ( ‘Entebbe encounter’, ‘The sleep of death’). Many of these titles are now online.
100 public information films made by the Central Office of Information, part of British government. This collection is our first ‘virtual’ collection - the Library has a licence with the British Film Institute to provide and make available this content via the Wellcome Film online service.
1000 films acquired by the Wellcome Library in 2005 from the British Medical Association, including a collection of 300 film titles originally distributed as Kodak Eastman educational and training films for the medical profession, but then given to the Royal Society of Medicine in the 1950s - and very shortly afterwards passed to the BMA. This interesting sub-collection is mostly from the 1920s and 1930s and includes many pioneering surgical procedures - all these titles have been digitised. The BMA collection has titles sourced from their prestigious film competition - many of the titles were rigorously peer reviewed and won awards. The competition ceased in the early 1980s.


Online catalogue
Printed catalogue
Available, indexed.

Additional Information

About three-quarters of the main collection and roughly half of the two special collections have been properly catalogued. Basic information and, in some cases, detailed summaries of contents are available on request for most of the remaining uncatalogued titles. New, updated and enlarged version of Catalogue is available as an online database via WISDOM (Wellcome Trust Information Service Databases on Medicine) -
Other information
Handlists of special collections; subject guides; printed information sheets on the Wellcome Trust Film and Video Collection. Printed catalogue of audiovisual programmes in the Wellcome Library relating to the history of medicine forthcoming (February 2001.)
Conservation policy
No film stock junked since 1970s, except for a small amount of nitrate film recopied onto safety stock. No videotape stock junked yet, except duplicates.

Main Contact

Angela Saward
Job title
Curator, Moving Image and Sound Collection
020 7611 8766
020 7611 8577
Wellcome Library
The Wellcome Trust
183 Euston Road

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