Rediscovering Propaganda Film: From Historical Vault to Digital Research Collection

Sponsored by Adam Matthew
Recorded on 09/07/2017

Posted in Primary Sources and Special Collections


Until recently, the incredible ETV (Educational Television) and Plato Films collection of propaganda films produced in the communist world was confined to the stacks of the British Film Institute’s National Archive, only available on 35mm and 16mm reels. Collected and distributed by the British communist Stanley Forman after the Second World War, the films demonstrate the communist view of the world from the early twentieth century until the 1980s. The unique footage has now been digitized and fully transcribed for the first time, enabling researchers to see the other side of the world through a unique visual record of twentieth century global history.

Join BFI National Archive Manager Helen Edmunds, left-film expert Dr Alan Burton and Adam Matthew Digital Editor Felix Barnes to look at how this historical film collection was discovered and digitized, and the research opportunities now available through the digital version: Socialism on Film: The Cold War and International Propaganda.

Helen Edmunds will discuss the work of the BFI’s National Film Archive, how the collection was acquired, stored, preserved and how the decision was made to work with Adam Matthew Digital to digitise and publish the collection.

Felix Barnes will discuss the publishing process: the digitisation workflow, cataloguing, features of the digital collection and how the material was selected.

Dr Alan Burton will explain the origins of the collection: its founder, how it was distributed and the historical context of the film. Dr Burton will also examine the academic significance of this material and the teaching and research opportunities opened up by Socialism on Film.


Helen Edmunds
Collections Manager
The British Film Institute
The National Archives, UK

Helen has worked for over 20 years in a variety of roles focused on collection care and development, and access to and conservation of the British Film Institute’s collections, both paper and moving image. As Collections Manager her work now involves standards, processes and procedures required for collections care, development and access. The team she manages deliver on archive digitisation projects, collection care programmes and access to the collections of the BFI National Archive.

Felix Barnes
Senior Editor
Adam Matthew

Felix Barnes is a Senior Editor at the publisher Adam Matthew Digital. He is responsible for managing the digitisation and online publication of primary source collections, including the Socialism on Film: The Cold War and International Propaganda project. He has also worked on publishing the document collection of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History and a multi-archive collection of documents on anglophone frontiers and settlement in world history.

Dr. Alan Burton
Honorary Visiting Fellow
Leicester University

Alan Burton is an experienced historian of film and television. He has published on left political film in Britain, and on the filmmakers Basil Dearden and Michael Relph, and the Boulting brothers. His ‘Historical Dictionary of British Cinema’ was Winner, Library Journal Best Reference of 2013, and his ‘Historical Dictionary of British Spy Fiction’ was Winner, RUSA Outstanding References Award (2017). He is presently a Honorary Visiting Fellow in History of Art and Film at the University of Leicester, UK.