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About us

The Collection is a reference library of moving image material made in and about London, understood in the widest possible terms. Housed in the Centre for Film and Visual Media Research at 43 Gordon Square its viewing facilities are open by appointment only.

Our rubric includes fiction with a London setting, non-fiction of all kinds and miscellaneous material such as advertising, music videos and amateur footage acquired by purchase, donation and as the output of major projects such as Screen Heritage UK. We do not hold original material or aim to preserve items on an exclusive basis, but offer a viewable selection from material held by many other archives and collections, as well as key London films not easily accessed elsewhere.

The Collection is closely linked to the Birkbeck Institute for the Moving Image, and to teaching programmes offered by the Film, Media and Cultural Studies Department of Birkbeck’s School of Arts.

History

The LSSC was launched at Birkbeck College in April 2007. Housed next to the RIBA award-winning Birkbeck Cinema, it emerged from Birkbeck’s AHRC London Project study of early cinema in the city (1895-1914: see database), also taking inspiration from the British Artists’ Film and Video Study Collection at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design and from the Forum des Images in Paris. It has since become a vital and integral part of a series of linked projects and initiatives which seek to research, discover and make accessible London’s rich screen heritage.

The UK has a network of regional screen archives – but London has never had a regional archive and in 2006, London’s Screen Archives – the Regional Network was formed to address this. A Steering Group including Film London, the BFI National Archive, the Museum of London and the Imperial War Museum among other formed a partnership to spearhead innovative projects. The LSSC has always been an important part of that organisation.

Highlights from eight years of activity include:

  • Regular term-time screenings at the Birkbeck Cinema in Gordon Square of London films grouped around themes ranging from Musical London and Experimental London to Dickens’ London (in the bicentenary year), and more recently Men About Town and a comparative programme of City Symphonies. Programmes have also been curated at Stratford Picturehouse and in 2014 at the Arthouse in Crouch End. (See elsewhere on this website for full screenings history and downloadable programme notes.)
  • A touring exhibition Moving Pictures Come to London: the first decades 1894-1914 travelled around libraries, local history centres and other London venues from 2006-2008 (and is still available for booking).
  • The LSSC was the London partner in the nationwide project Their Past Your Future commemorating the end of WW2 and post-war reconstruction. A DVD of films from London’s archives (1941-1951) was produced, funded by the Big Lottery for community and educational use. Widely distributed to London schools, community venues, day centres and residential homes, it has been used extensively for work on reminiscence.
  • London Rediscovered – a DVD anthology of films from the 1950s drawn from the holdings of many public-sector archives with historic material from other sources, creating a fascinating panorama of life in London 1951-59. Funded by Film London and the UK Film Council Digital Film Archive Fund.
  • The LSSC played a key part in launching London’s Screen Archives YouTube Channel, showcasing archive films, clips and shorts made from 1896 to the present day.
  • Screening Our Memories was a year-long pilot project funded by Film London, training age care sector workers in how to use archive film for reminiscence work with their clients, including clients with dementia. Age Concern and The Sharp End (a Hackney organisation working with older people on creativity and music) took part in training sessions, and a training toolkit is available online.
  • LSSC is a partner in London: A Bigger Picture, a three-year HLF funded project by LSA, launching in 2014, and will deliver an Archive Volunteers training course.

Ian Christie Director
Angela English Research and documentation