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The origins and early development of the National Film Library: 19291936

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This article explores the origins and early development of the National Film Library (NFL) as part of the British Film Institute (BFI) in the mid-1930s. Based on primary archival research papers, this institutional history shows how tensions between educational, preservational and exhibition priorities were played out in the plans for setting up and initial years of operation. Whilst the establishment of national film archives was common to this period in Europe and the United States, they did not share common models or functions. This article details the distinctive financial structures, cultural emphases and educative ideals that conditioned the shape and purposes of the NFL until the mid-1950s. Despite a clear recognition of the importance of a British cinematic heritage, championed by its first curator, Ernest Lindgren, in its early years preservation won out over pedagogy. But Dupin argues, the integration of the Library within the larger institution did lay the foundations for the BFI's more proactive role in the field of film appreciation in subsequent years.

Keywords: BFI; British film history; Ernest Lindgren; National Film Library; cinema institutions; film archives

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Queen Mary, University of London.

Publication date: December 1, 2008


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