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Archive films are powerful tools for creative expression and political and historical analysis, but they are typically not accessible for creative reuse by student filmmakers. With the support of the BBC Archive and the British Film Institute (BFI), Kingston researcher and documentary filmmaker Dr Shane O'Sullivan created a new model for the licensing and reuse of archive film in education through the 'Archives for Education' and 'Make Film History' projects.
Dr O'Sullivan's projects drew inspiration from a 2005 BBC project that opened access to archive material for download and remixing by the public, led by Paul Gerhardt, former Director of Education at the BFI. After exploring the advantages of creative reuse for Higher Education students, in 2017 Dr O'Sullivan developed a pilot programme for Kingston University students to use documentaries from the BFI National Archive in their coursework. The success of the pilot led to a national rollout of the ‘Archives for Education' scheme, which was subsequently adopted by 15 HE institutions in the UK and Ireland.
The project currently offers 200 historical films to young filmmakers in education and training across the UK and Ireland from the collections of the BFI, BBC, Northern Ireland Screen, and the Irish Film Institute.
Practice-based educators teaching television, film or media production courses can use this free archival resource to engage student filmmakers in film history and explore how documentary production in the UK and Ireland has developed over time. Working with archive films licensed for educational use has taught students about copyright law and professional practice while discouraging them from illegally downloading YouTube content. Additionally, through their use of licensed materials from the archive, they can explore differences between generations while using image and sound editing to illustrate their own histories of the UK and Ireland.
Team members also gave presentations at the IASA/FIAT/IFTA conference of professional broadcast archivists and ran creative reuse workshops at the IFI Documentary Film Festival and the Cork International Film Festival. In 2020, Bertha DocHouse, a leading documentary venue in Central London, invited Dr O'Sullivan to deliver a workshop on the creative reuse of archive film. The DocHouse Marketing Manager described the workshop as "by far the most successful event we had produced".
'Make Film History' continues to broaden its network as new partners join in on the journey to extend the benefits of this initiative to all levels of education. So far, 73 educational institutions have signed up for this initiative.