Hours of classic films, television, documentaries and even home movies will form a fascinating window to the nation’s shared history at the new Library of Birmingham after it was confirmed it will become the home of a BFI Mediatheque.
The announcement, which sees the Library of Birmingham team up with the BFI (British Film Institute), means visitors will have free access to many of the rarest and most extraordinary titles in the BFI National Archive when the Centenary Square building opens in 2013.
First introduced in 2007, the BFI Mediatheque consists of several individual viewing stations, offering users the opportunity to view a vast selection of content taken from one of the world’s most significant film and television collections. Effectively operating as a digital jukebox of rarely seen material and well-loved classics of film and TV, the Mediatheque offers an ever-expanding collection of more than 1,500 titles, over 85% of which are unavailable to view anywhere else.
News of the new facility in Birmingham comes as the BFI announces plans for expansion across the country, and the new venue at Library of Birmingham is set to become one of the largest BFI Mediatheques in the country.
Described by Time Out magazine as “One of our greatest national cultural resources”, the launch of the facility in Birmingham will coincide with the addition of a plethora of local content to the Mediatheque. Joining forces with partners such as the Media Archive for Central England and Screen West Midlands, the BFI Mediatheque will provide a fascinating record of the people, places, history and creativity of the region.
Mike Whitby, Leader of Birmingham City Council said: “I am delighted that the Library of Birmingham has been selected as the latest home of the BFI Mediatheque. Building on the excellent start to the year, with construction starting on site for the new Library of Birmingham, 2010 is really becoming a year in which Birmingham continues to set new standards for a library’s place in the 21st century.
“Partnerships with organisations such as the BFI are an excellent means to deliver new and innovative services, as we seek to establish the Library of Birmingham as the hub of the city’s knowledge economy. This is the first in a series of key announcements around the Library of Birmingham, and we look forward to announcing more top-class partnerships in the near future.”
Brian Gambles, Assistant Director for Culture and Head of Libraries at Birmingham City Council said: “The Library of Birmingham aims to embrace digital technology, and this resource is certain to become an exciting and invaluable attraction for our visitors. The BFI Mediatheque provides library users with access to one of the world’s largest film archives, and we look forward to enhancing it with a new collection chronicling Birmingham’s proud history and culture.”
The announcement was also welcomed by BFI Director Amanda Nevill, who said: “Film provides such a tantalising view of how the people of Britain lived and worked and played over the past century or more. The public is clamouring to see it and the job of the BFI is to make the UK’s collection of archive film and television more widely and easily available to everyone, regardless of where they live or where the material is held.
“We always said when we opened our first Mediatheque at BFI Southbank in London that our aim was to replicate it in every nation and region of the UK and we are several steps closer to achieving that aim now – giving people across the UK the chance to experience and enjoy unprecedented access to their national film and television heritage.”
Construction of the Library of Birmingham began in Centenary Square last month after plans received final approval in December.
The new building has been designed to function flexibly around rapidly developing new digital technologies to create opportunities for learning and access. New exhibition galleries will showcase for the first time the city’s outstanding and internationally significant archives and special collections, including Photography and Early and Fine Printing.
An open air amphitheatre at the lower ground floor will be an exciting feature in Centenary Square, bringing the library out into the public realm and providing a venue for live performance including music, poetry and story-telling.
The next phase on the build project, due to commence in February, will be the demolition of The REP’s extension block that forms part of the footprint for the new development, which will integrate the new library with the theatre at ground and mezanine levels.
The building includes a spacious entrance foyer, and a new 300-seat studio theatre which will be used by both organisations. The project is on course for completion in summer 2013.
Roulla Xenides or Tom Parker, S&X, 0121 604 6366
Simon Houltby, Birmingham City Council, 0121 303 3503