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Moving image collections

We have a moving image collection of around 70,000 titles. Traditionally, moving image items have been selected for the sounds that they contain, and strengths of the collection include music, particularly popular music, drama and literature recordings, and ethno-musical recordings.  Major new offerings are the Broadcast News service and the BBC Pilot Service.

The holdings are a mixture of commercial and non-commercial products. Highlights include:

  • Broadcast News: available though an onsite instant access service
  • 14,000 popular music videos
  • 9,000 television programmes (BBC1, BBC2, ITV and Channel 4) recorded off-air 1985-1999
  • Original interview footage for the oral history-based television series Labour of Love (1993) and Forbidden Britain (1994)
  • Extensive interviews on video with Holocaust survivors
  • The complete rehearsal and performance video archive of theatre company Forced Entertainment
  • Film and video recordings of ethnomusicologists Rolf Killius and Arnold Bake
  • Silent cinema on DVD

Small amounts of moving image material are held in other departments. Moving images are also a part of the Endangered Archives programme. There is no legal deposit agreement in the UK for moving images, and though occasional video materials accompany books or documents obtained by the British Library under legal deposit, the majority of moving images are acquired by individual curators by off-air recording, donation and purchase.

You can follow what's happening with the British Library and moving images through the Sound and Vision blog.

Broadcast News

Daily television and radio news programmes broadcast in the UK since May 2010 are available though an instant access service in the Reading Rooms, with new programmes available within hours of broadcast.

BBC Pilot Service

This is a trial service produced by the BBC in collaboration with the British Library. It brings together BBC programme catalogue records with BBC television and radio programmes recorded off-air from mid-2007 to end of 2011. There are approximately 2.2 million catalogue records and 190,000 playable programmes.

Other resources

Materials held by the British Library that relate to moving images are extensive. The collection is naturally strong for books on film and television, and for trade journals and periodicals, held in Newspapers. There are personal papers (for example, the Dilys Powell, Terence Rattigan and Lord Olivier collections) in Manuscript Collections, business records and patents in the Business & IP Centre, and film music scores in the Music Collections, including Vaughan Williams, Humphrey Searle and Francis Chagrin. Specialist collections exist within some departments e.g. Slavonic and East European Collection’s resources for the study of Russian and Soviet cinema. There is a comprehensive collection of commercially-released film music, totalling over 22,500 recordings.

The British Universities Film & Video Council’s Television & Radio Index for Learning & Teaching (TRILT), a comprehensive record of UK television and radio broadcasts since 1995, is now available in the Reading Rooms as search tool. It has details of over 15 million programmes so far, and adds another 3,000 records each day.

Accessing the collection

The moving image holdings of the Sound Archive are listed on the Sound and Moving Image Catalogue. Alternatively, search for moving image content using Explore the British Library. Broadcast News, BBC Pilot Service and some subscription video services are available for instant access at most terminals in the Reading Rooms. 

Viewings for all other moving image items are organised through the Listening and Viewing Service. A British Library Reader Pass is required, and appointments have to be booked in advance. None of the moving image holdings is available outside of the Reading Rooms at present, owing to copyright restrictions.

Further information

Moving Image
The British Library
96 Euston Road

Tel: +44 (0)20 7412 7442
Fax: +44 (0)20 7412 7441