Britain has a deep and rich history of life captured on film. Much of it has not been seen in generations. On the back of its hugely successful Britain on Film project, the BFI has launched a crowdsourcing platform, BFI Contribute.
The BFI Britain on Film Mapping Mission at Contribute.bfi.org.uk is an online community that everyone can visit, to take an active part in the BFI’s research, by sharing local expertise to unlock answers and make real discoveries to enrich our knowledge of, and understanding about, our shared screen heritage.
Whether a local historian or someone simply interested in the ever-changing face of their local community and surroundings, the new crowdsourcing initiative empowers eagle eyed members of the public to volunteer any information or stories they may have on countless unknown or ‘lost’ locations and landmarks by searching for films via Contribute.bfi.org.uk.
Many of these films feature locations, landmarks and other points of interest that may be unknown and which local users will be able to provide information about, thus adding valuable new data to these missing pieces of our shared cultural history.
BFI Contribute stems from the incredible mass audience engagement with the interactive Britain on Film map and a desire from the public to share their own stories, with over 10,000 films spanning the last 120 years digitised and made available for free on BFI Player. Drawn from the collections of the BFI National Archive and representing films from regional and national archive partners from all corners of the UK, this large, but curated, selection of geo-tagged films, mostly unknown to audiences, let the public find films local to them.
Since its launch in 2015, Britain on Film has amassed over 70 million video views with 78% reach outside London/South East England, making it a truly national success. It is exactly the type of engagement that the BFI had hoped for but on a much greater scale than anyone had anticipated.
As the views for Britain on Film racked up into the millions, feedback from audiences showed that they had found something directly meaningful and inherently rewarding to them on a local level. A nostalgia for place and purpose, paired with an increasingly altruistic public appetite turned viewers into interactive local experts, who wanted to share knowledge and histories which would correct, amplify and react to Britain on Film. It soon became clear that direct contribution by the public themselves would be the most efficient and most engaging way to collate and catalogue the input of this local expertise back into the project. BFI Contribute – contribute.bfi.org.uk
Colette McFadden BFI, Head of Heritage Programmes says, “We had such an amazing response to Britain on Film, we knew we had to find a meaningful way to harness all the wonderful stories and data being shared and enable people to tell us even more about the hidden histories and locations in our films. This led to the creation of BFI Contribute. The platform empowers people to interact with their screen heritage, be expert witnesses to their own local history and share it with the rest of the nation. What a great time to get your geek on.”
The launch of BFI Contribute coincides with the 25th anniversary of Heritage Open Days, England’s largest festival of history and culture. Reflecting the rich and diverse cultural heritage of England, the festival is a unique and powerful partnership spanning the public, private and voluntary sectors. It’s a chance for communities nationwide to come together to learn, explore and have fun by sharing the treasures on their doorstep at venues across the country through a range of activities and events.
The theme for this year’s Heritage Open Days festival, 13-22 September, is People Power, empowering communities at a local level to tell the stories they want told and encouraging people to celebrate participation, playing a direct and active role in maintaining their cultural heritage. These core values that resonate both with the BFI and Heritage Open Days reflect a shared ambition to enrich and preserve cultural heritage on a local and national level for the future.
Annabelle Thorpe, Heritage Open Days Manager says, “We’re delighted to be supporting this extraordinary initiative from the BFI, which chimes perfectly with our core belief, that history belongs to all of us, and that everyone has a story to tell. I encourage all our organisers, visitors and volunteers and the general public at large to get involved with BFI Contribute, it’s a unique opportunity to lend local community voices to our rich and diverse history.”
Everyone is invited to join the BFI Contribute community. It’s open to all to watch, spot, plot and share the hidden histories and locations in the films. We want to find out as much as we can about Britain on Film. This is our mission. So, whether you spot your local high street, your great, great relative or maybe some of your favourite places or ‘lost’ locations, we’d really like to know more. With over 10,000 archive films spanning the whole of the UK there is truly something for everyone.