What is a curator?

Like their counterparts in many other cultural institutions, our curators are responsible for managing and interpreting the BFI National Archive’s collections.

Our curators oversee one of the largest and most diverse moving image collections in the world. In line with the BFI National Archive collections policy, curators are responsible for maintaining, cataloguing and developing the collections in each of our main collecting areas: fiction film, non-fiction film, television and special collections. Curators are experts in all aspects of film archiving, as well as their particular specialist field of British film and television history and practice.

The day-to-day work of a curator includes:

  • Working closely with technical colleagues to determine and plan conservation and preservation activity around film, television and associated materials.
  • Taking responsibility for all items in the collection falling into that specialism. This amounts to thousands of films and tapes per curator – many more items than most traditional museum and gallery curators have to deal with.
  • Acquiring items for the collections, whether in response to offers of material, to ongoing film and television production or to the identification of significant gaps in the Archive’s existing holdings.
  • Negotiating donor agreements, identifying and selecting material and cataloguing its contents as part of the acquisition process – all highly labour intensive activities that are essential to enabling public access to material.
  • Researching and cataloguing items in the collections.
  • Overseeing and directing restoration, remastering and the creation of new prints or other material.
  • Dealing with enquiries about the collections from the public, other archives, industry or donors.

Additionally, curators work to showcase the vast collections of the BFI National Archive and to bring them to a wider audience.

Archive projects

Our curators programme and introduce seasons and screenings at BFI Southbank and other cinemas. They also contribute to books, journals and newspapers, DVD releases and online resources, and appear on television and radio programmes to talk about the latest BFI projects. Many of our curators are world experts on their specialist subject.

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  • Archive projects

    Archive projects

    We bring the vast collections of the BFI National Archive to a wider audience through our cultural projects.

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