The BBC Heritage Collection

The BBC Heritage Collection

An interview with Rory O'Connell from the BBC's Heritage collection

Rory O'Connell, who looks after the BBC's Heritage Collection, talks about working with Tardises and Alistair Cooke's typewriter.


Costumes and Props

We have a small number of costumes in the collection, drawn from very special BBC programmes, such as Ronnie Barker's overall from 'Open All Hours'. This was the hit series in the '70s and '80s, in which Ronnie Barker played the miserly shopkeeper, Arkwright. I think it's particularly special because Ronnie Barker was special to the BBC. He spent so much of his career making programmes for the BBC and with him passing away it takes on a new hallowed, special status.

And we have here Pauline Fowler's overall from 'EastEnders'. Pauline was one of the longest-running characters, from 1985 until she was killed off in 2006, when the costume came into the collection. We also have examples of Kenny Everett's comedy teeth, from his cast of comedy characters from his show. These ones are of Janet Street-Porter. And you can see the teeth. These were custom made for Kenny Everett. They took a mould of his own teeth and then wires on the back of the teeth would have fitted over his own. When we were first given these, we showed them to the museum of the British Dental Association, and they said that they were among the best false teeth they'd ever seen.

Other memorable props that many people might be familiar with include from 'EastEnders' we have a pair of Pat Butcher's gaudy earrings, which any fans of 'EastEnders' will know about, or Gordon the Gopher from the famous Phillip Schofield children's series.

Props are quite interesting, because a lot of them are either made for one-off use or they're made of very poor quality materials, and don't always survive. But something like this prop from 'Holby City' would have had a lot of specialist input from both visual effects makers but also from anatomical experts and surgeons to make sure that it was exactly accurate.

We have surprisingly few items in the collection from 'Doctor Who'. One of the most common things people ask is 'Have you got a Dalek in the collection?' and actually the answer is no. The BBC actually sold off a lot of the original Daleks, partly to reinvest in new 'Doctor Who' monsters. But we do have one of the original Cyberman masks and we do have the mask of the 'Doctor Who' monster the Ood, with the rather scary tentacles coming out of its face.

We do have one of the original Tardises in the collection. There were a number, but only one has survived. And we're also very lucky to have one of the original Tardis control consoles from inside the Tardis. It was actually a duplicate made for one particular series, so we're quite lucky that that duplicate survived.

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