British Film Institute Archive Collections Get United Nations Status

Mitchell and Kenyon Films and GPO Film Unit movies now listed on UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register.

LONDON – A brace of British Film Institute archive collections have been awarded special status by the United Nations.

The two collections – the Peter Worden collection of Mitchell and Kenyon Films and the GPO Film Unit movies are now listed on UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register.

The register is part of a UNESCO program to support and raise awareness of archives.

The BFI nominations were among 20 items and collections selected from libraries, archives and museums to represent the U.K.’s outstanding yet ‘lesser-known’ heritage.

The GPO films are a joint project and were nominated with The British Postal Museum & Archive and BT Heritage.

The Mitchell and Kenyon collection, recently restored by the BFI National Archive, offers a  unparalleled social record of early 20th-century British life showing ordinary people in everyday situations. The collection has 826 films made by photographers-turned-showmen Sagar Mitchell and James Kenyon who screened their films at fairgrounds to excited audiences.

From factory gates to seaside excursions, the films offer a unique record of Britain at the beginning of the 20th century. The entire collection has over 28 hours of film, of which only a few hours has yet been widely seen.

The GPO Film Unit produced one of the finest British collections of documentary, public information, animation and industrial film ever to come from a single U.K. source. The unit lasted for just seven years yet its films set the trend for generations that followed and its impact spread the world over.

BFI creative director Heather Stewart said: “Mitchell & Kenyon’s films are transforming our knowledge of early 20th century Britain and of early cinema. The filmmakers never intended their films to last but they have become the single most important source for modern British history. The GPO Film Unit represents a defining moment in the history of British documentary with films which are both an extraordinary record and also boldly innovative in terms of their film-making technique.”