|Flammable films are being transferred
to new stock
Inside Out has gained access to
one of the country’s most important film archives. The priceless footage
it contains is so flammable, that it could literally burst into flames
at any time.
The Imperial War Museum nitrate film store at Duxford
holds footage dating back more than 100 years.
Rare sepia images of the First World War, shot by the
Germans, are some of its most valuable treasures.
|Watch some of the footage
Home movie footage shot in 1945 by Lady Eleanor
Shot in the 1940s, troops are seen showing
pictures of movie stars in their helmets.
Royal Air Corporation footage showing the launch
of an early aeroplane.
King African Rifles making their way through the scrub to the front.
The proposed design of the new nitrate film store is tested.
© Imperial War Museum
David Walsh, Head of Preservation at the archive says,
"The film archive is extremely important. It has a huge range of
"It's a great social record of life and times during
the war... It's an enormously useful resource for the nation."
Most of the early footage was shot on 35mm film containing
nitrate, which is highly flammable. This old stock can literally burst
into flames at any time.
Once alight, the film will even burn under water, making
it almost impossible to extinguish.
Considering its fragile yet potentially hazardous composition,
safely storing the archive is a huge challenge.
Until recently, most of the collection’s film was stored
in London. It has now moved to a new, purpose-built facility in Duxford,
separate blocks of the film archive
The Nitrate film store is probably the most advanced
in the world. It is a building comprising eleven separate blocks and experiments
have confirmed that a fire in one block could be contained, and it would
not spread to the rest.
This ensures that if one of the rolls were to ignite,
the whole collection would not be destroyed.
Preserving the footage is also a constant battle. A team
at the Imperial War Museum are transferring the old film onto new stock.
Original equipment dating back to the 1930s is being
used for this process.
Currently the archive has over a 100,000 rolls of old
film. Just to transfer them onto new film will take at least 20 years.