BBC Collections

With so many decades of broadcasting behind it, the BBC has accumulated numerous exciting collections of programme-related objects, photographs, works of art, and items of technology.

The Corporation is tasked with looking after its own history, and through its partners, such as the National Media Museum in Bradford it is becoming increasingly possible to access these collections through exhibitions and events. Our online collection below reveals some of the classic gems of the collection – a permanent insight into what is not always on show elsewhere.

  • ArtThe small art collection held by the BBC consists mainly of works commissioned as part of our buildings – from the famous statues of Ariel and Prospero to the John Piper mosaic and the recent metal and glass sculpture Breathing by Jaume Plensa. In addition, artworks reflect some of the key personalities that inspired and led the Corporation, as well as the major moments of creative programming.
  • BrandingPrior to the widespread use of computer graphics, the on screen identities ('idents') of BBC TV channels were generated mechanically. Mechanical clocks were also seen regularly, often before important broadcasts such as the national news. Two idents are on show at the Media Café in New Broadcasting House, London, and the last mechanical clock to be used on air is also on display. A permanent display of ident images is also on show. Our online presentation covers most of the BBC's channel identities seen on screen over the years.
  • Director-General portraitsLike many large public service institutions in Britain, the BBC at one time commissioned portraits of its most senior leader. In the BBC hierarchy that person is the Director-General. Sadly, the series of DGs is incomplete. Three director generals were overlooked amid the preoccupations of World War 2 and its aftermath. They are Frederick Ogilvie, Cecil Graves and Robert Foot. Post the departure of former Director -General Mark Thompson, various options have been considered as to how best portray this important figure in the digital age.
  • ProgrammesThe rubber dog that killed dirty Den in Eastenders, and an original mould used in the creation of Doctor Who's Daleks - these are just a couple of the many objects we feature in this section. At one time all television production was produced in-house and a very large collection of items were recycled over and over again for a very wide variety of programmes. As programme-making practice has changed, fewer items, used many times over were needed, and online you'll see a small selection of those.
  • TechnologyThe National Media Museum in Bradford holds the bulk of a large collection of technological items developed by the BBC over the years. Pioneering cameras, ground breaking microphones, and eccentric machinery that recorded some of the earliest broadcast sounds are featured here.