How archives bring history to life

Fiona Talbott, HLF Head of Museums, Libraries and Archives
We’re celebrating archives this week. HLF Head of Museums, Libraries and Archives Fiona Talbott explores one of her favourites.

There's a tendency to think that archives are all about documentary material and forget about film and sound archives. Personally, I particularly like film archives because I love that mix of old film, cine and video. 

Also, alongside professional footage, film archives often hold a huge range of amateur film, which tell all those personal stories.

East Anglian Film Archive 

The East Anglian Film Archive (EEFA) was one of the first HLF projects I was involved with after I joined the organisation. 

This fascinating archive is co-located in Norfolk Record Office is relatively accessible. And while I really appreciated being shown around all the storage areas with their special environmental conditions, the best part for me was seeing clips from some of its fascinating collections. EAFA's largest collections are from Anglia Television and regional BBC material.

Connecting with the past 

Not long before the visit I’d been in Lavenham in Suffolk which is one of England’s medieval wool towns with some of the best-preserved medieval timber-framed buildings in the country. It is a rare survival of the post-war movement to demolish historic houses that only began to be challenged in the early 1960s. 

[quote]“While at the EAFA I was shown film from a 1960s documentary featuring a very young David Dimbleby.”[/quote]

While at the EAFA I was shown film from a 1960s documentary featuring a very young David Dimbleby talking to residents of Lavenham about the problems of restoring and preserving their houses and public buildings. It was amazing to see that some of the houses did not have electricity or running water at that time – they were clearly difficult places to live.

It was only through accessing that old documentary film that I was able to appreciate the impact of that early 1960s move towards saving and restoring historic domestic buildings rather than demolish them. It enabled me to connect very immediately to the wonderfully restored Lavenham village as it is today.

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