If You Build It, Will They Come? Researching British Newsreels
News on Screen is the world’s leading online resource on newsreels, developed by the British Universities Film & Video Council (BUFVC). Users can search across 185,000 British newsreel and cinemagazine stories & 80,000 digitized production documents with nearly 60% linked to the films themselves. Beyond the database it provides a range of resources, including oral histories, case studies, specialized micro-sites and website directories. The resource is the digital tip of an iceberg of physical collections of newsreel documents donated to BUFVC over the years from British Pathé and Visnews/Reuters as well as memories and memorabilia from individual newsreel staff. These are supported by collated newsreel-related material and publications produced by a succession of BUFVC staff as the newsreel baton was passed down the years.
The history of newsreels at the BUFVC stretches back over forty years. It is a history of a growing collection and research, but it is also a history of relationships forged and re-forged through the organization between academia, commercial and public archives and the outcomes it produced. It is a history of technology and its application to widen access and pioneer new forms of investigation and even a history of historians charting the changing ebb and flow of their engagement with this essential primary source.
This chapter will trace the different histories of newsreels at BUFVC from the late 1960s, seeking to identify and analyse key drivers in its development from an active interest within the organization to a unique collection and online resource. These findings will inform an examination of the present condition and the challenges that face it today, particularly with regard to sustainability and development. Finally, it will discuss what the future could, and should hold, in both the physical and virtual world.