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The Huntley Film Archive

Amanda Huntley gave a talk in November 2010 about the Huntley Film Archive, now based in Ewyas Harold, Herefordshire, but formerly in London. The collection was begun by Amanda’s father John in the 1940s.  In 1984 they formed a company to preserve early films and prevent them being lost or thrown away. It is the largest private archive of early films in this country. The film vaults are secure, with temperature and humidity control to maintain the best possible conditions for preservation of the precious stock.  

Moving images are about 115 years old and Amanda explained how history is expounded via the medium of film, so that ordinary people of the period speak directly to us. There is also interest in discovering why the film was originally made and its intended audience.  Some was for propaganda but others were simply informative. She outlined the history of moving images, from sequential stills on cards viewed through a Zoetrope to the invention by Thomas Edison’s company of an early type of celluloid which allowed the film industry to take off. The Lumiere brothers converted a sewing machine mechanism into an early projector and this ultimately led to the birth of the cinema industry.

Most early films were made on 35mm or 16mm celluloid. Nitrate-based film stock is very susceptible to decomposition as well as being highly inflammable, and needs special care. Later films used acetate-based material or "safety" film, while modern copies are digitised in DVD format. We saw examples of a historic film clip from 1889, then early 20th century activities in Hereford, and other more modern films but still historically significant. Films arrive at the Archive in all states of disrepair and they try to repair and stabilise each one.  They have about 80,000 reels and more comes in all the time.  The pictures on the film can usually be stabilised but the sound can be very difficult to capture, even having to be synchronised from 78rpm discs in some cases.  More information, including a selection of film clips, can be seen on the Huntley Archives website.

A screenshot from the
Huntley Archives website