30 July, 2009

Documentary filming at the Museum

Due for launch early 2010, Sacred Cinema is a Canadian documentary that explores the enduring magic of film and cinema. And if all goes well, you should be seeing the National Media Museum and some of our staff in the movie -- because the team behind the film was here yesterday, pointing their cameras at everything from Pictureville cinema to our Curator of Cinematography Michael Harvey (above, and below demonstrating the Lumière Cinématographe from 1895).

Producer and director Mark G Power and cinematographer Andrew Scholotiuk have been travelling the world since April, touring and filming the planet's most interesting and important cinemas, for a film that they hope will prove "a love letter to moviegoers and theatre owners everywhere".

They spent the morning filming the Cinerama screen in our Pictureville cinema -- we've got one of the only three public Cinerama theatres in the world. Then I caught up with them as they filmed Michael talking about the history of film and film projectors, against the backdrop of the television collection in our Insight centre downstairs.

"When I saw This Is Cinerama in Pictureville," Mark told me, "my heart exploded."

"It affirmed to us that we're on the right track. After all, we're going to places like the National Media Museum sight unseen. We don't know what we're going to find. But it's extraordinary technically, this multiformat Pictureville cinema. And it's really the only true Cinerama theatre, installed to the original specifications."

Keep an eye on the Sacred Cinema website to find out how the film's progressing. And if you haven't experienced the triple-projected majesty of This Is Cinerama for yourself -- and you must -- by a neat coincidence it's showing this very Saturday, 1st August 2009. Find out more and book tickets at our This Is Cinerama page.

29 July, 2009

Matthew Lewis talks Harry Potter 7, IMAX, and weird fans

Yesterday, we were proud to welcome Leeds-based actor Matthew Lewis to the Museum -- for two reasons.

One: so Matthew -- who plays Neville Longbottom in the Harry Potter films -- could watch Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince on our colossal IMAX screen, and cower in the shadow of his 5 metre-tall screen counterpart.

Two: so a gaggle of starstruck children (and at least three besotted and blushing teenage girls) had their chance to sit and chat with one of the heroes of the wizarding world -- and, incidentally, one of the nicest young men you could ever hope to meet.

Matthew took a seat in our Cubby Broccoli cinema for an exclusive interview with us about all things Harry Potter -- including the hugely-anticipated final two films in the series, due for release in 2010 and 2011 respectively. Click the play button above to watch it.

And if you haven't seen Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince yet, our IMAX page has all the information you need.

27 July, 2009

What's on this week: 27 Jul - 2 Aug 2009


New films this week are Cloud 9 (Wolke 9), Public Enemies, 35 Rhums (35 Shots Of Rum) and Burma VJ. Film page

You can see a barnstorming performance (literally) from Richard Burton in 1976 film classic Equus on Thursday 30 July -- with an introduction from Iain Baird, our Curator of Television (and grandson of Iain Logie Baird, the inventor of television).

On Saturday 1 August, we're bringing out the triple projectors again for a screening of This Is Cinerama. We're one of the only places left in the world that you can see this super-widescreen slice of 1950s Americana.

Also on Saturday, our reimagined Bite The Mango season of world cinema explodes into life with 1970s all-action Indian epic Sholay (above). There's much more to come from Bite The Mango, including the critically-acclaimed Shirin, and a dedicated weekend in late September.

Plus our calendar of summer 2009 family events continues, including Harry Potter weekends for the little wizard or witch in your family.

22 July, 2009

The moon -- as photographed in 1851

A trip downstairs to see Brian Liddy, our Curator of Collections Access, is always rewarding. His job is to look after our shelf upon shelf and room upon room of object collections -- and every time you step through his office door, he'll show you something amazing he's working on.

Yesterday, it was a 150-year-old photograph of the Moon.

This shot of our satellite is a daguerreotype -- the daguerreotype process being the world's first practical method for creating permanent photographs, invented by Louis Daguerre in the 1830s. This photo was taken in 1851 by John Adams Whipple (1822 - 1891) and George Phillips Bond (1825 - 1865). Whipple won prizes for his astronomical photography -- he was the first to take pictures of stars other than our sun. Bond was the director of Harvard College Observatory, who worked with Whipple to advance the quality of photography of the heavens.

Brian was checking the object after it had come back from a loan to the San Francisco Museum Of Modern Art and the Albertina in Vienna -- at every stage during an object's journey around the world, it's checked and double-checked to ensure it remains in pristine condition. The daguerreotype has since been returned to its original location in the museum stores, inside Insight: The Collections & Research Centre.

This daguerreotype is particularly precious as we've had it in the NMSI collection for over 50 years. It was first acquired by the Science Museum in 1943.

21 July, 2009

Archive magazine -- now with exclusive online bits

You're probably already familiar with Archive -- our quarterly magazine that's brings together thought-provoking and entertaining articles about our exhibitions, festivals and events.

The good news is that there's now an online element to Archive. We've started uploading web-exclusive articles that you can read in your browser -- or download as a handy (and fully-illustrated) PDF.

It all starts with a fascinatingly in-depth article about the Peter Schaffer play/film Equus -- which is brought to you by the Museum's Curator Of Television (and grandson of the inventor of television), Iain Baird.

Don't miss the Museum's showing of the 1976 film version of Equus, taking place next Thursday (30 July). As well as getting blasted off your seat by one of Richard Burton's last great scene-stealing performances, you'll also be able to see Iain Baird in the flesh: he'll be introducing the film before the screening. Book tickets for Equus

10 July, 2009

Volunteers' Day

Whereas people like me get paid "handsomely" for our jobs here at the Museum, there's an army of unsung helpers who volunteer their services for free -- and whose work in Collections and elsewhere keeps the Museum running efficiently.

Tuesday in Collections is 'library volunteers day'. A dozen or so people from the local area arrive at Insight at 10am, and spend the morning cataloguing the vast number of unlabelled, unsorted books that are shelved in our Collections library. That means opening each book, scribbling the details onto a form, filing the book, then entering the details into our digital database. For hundreds, and hundreds, and hundreds of books.

One such volunteer is Betty (third from left in the picture above), who's old enough to remember saving up for a Brownie camera, and who's been a Museum volunteer since 2004. She's the one who brings the biscuits for everyone to nibble on during the mid-morning tea break. So far Betty's catalogued books about everything from TV, to film, to photography. But she tends to avoid the more gruesome photography books. "I don't like all that blood and guts," she says. "Not when I've just had a chocolate biscuit."

The books come from all over: personal donations, the University Of Newcastle, our Kaszna Krausz Collection, and elsewhere. Some books are well-thumbed, others have never been opened. Betty might be leafing through the pages of a book that's worth pennies -- or hundreds of pounds.

In the library itself, where some of our little team were busy filing the catalogued books, I found another volunteer: Pamela. She was dutifully cataloguing our collection of Portfolio, the magazine of contemporary photography. The magazine is having a back issues sale and we're considering filling the gaps in our collection -- but first we need to find out what we do and don't have. That's Pamela's job today.

No-one's more grateful for the volunteers' help than Brian Liddy, our Curator of Collections Access. "They make my life so much easier," he says. "And the cataloguing means that researchers stand a much better chance of finding the kind of books they're searching for."

The mammoth task of cataloguing our collection continues. If you'd like to join our team of volunteers, do call us on 0870 70 10 200.

09 July, 2009

Fresh photos on Flickr Commons

As often as he can, our social web guru Peer Lawther digs into our collection of very old and very amazing pictures (diligently digitized by our Collections team), and adds them to The Commons on Flickr. And what does that mean for you? It means that not only can you see them -- you can download them and use them, because, as far as we're aware, these images have no copyright restrictions. Read our Flickr Commons copyright message for the official line.

Just added: two new Flickr sets that tie in with two of our exhibitions. First, the Babies set features 13 photos that were part of our last Gallery One exhibition, Baby: Picturing The Ideal Human, 1840s To Now. Second, the Animals set -- themed to sit alongside our current Animalism exhibition -- has such 19th-20th century wonders as "Contents Of An Ostrich's Stomach" and "The Sucking Tube On The Tongue Of A Blowfly x 300".

Too gruesome? There's also a very cute picture of a yawning koala.

While you they're, take a look at our other very successful Commons sets -- including the must-see Spirit Photographs Of William Hope, which comprises photos of 'ghosts' and 'spirits' taken by the eponymous 19th century medium. That set alone is already up to 34,000 views.

01 July, 2009

Postcard from Edinburgh International Film Festival 2009

Note from Mark: Neil Young is our roving festival programmer, regularly crossing the globe to search out the best in cinema to bring to our own Bradford International Film Festival and Bradford Animation Festival. This is his latest report.

This latest postcard comes from rather closer to home than my previous dispatches, which winged their way to Bradford from Austria, Portugal and Romania. I haven't even left the UK, though I am "north of the border" – at the 63rd Edinburgh International Film Festival.

Now established in June (including some sweltering days this week!) after many years in August, EIFF is the world's longest continually-running film festival, having kicked off in 1947 – alongside the "official" Edinburgh Festival – as a showcase for documentaries, especially Scottish non-fiction films.

Six and a bit decades on, and the festival has expanded to cover pretty much every type of current cinema – and has long since been ranked as one of the country's major film-related events, a magnet for film-lovers, industry bigwigs, and practitioners of the medium.

And whereas at foreign festivals I usually represent Bradford solo, last week I was joined by BIFF's Artistic Director Tony Earnshaw, programmer Tom Vincent, and festival producer Ben Eagle. So you can expect a selection of our favourites to pop up in the Bradford programme come next March.

Before then, you should keep an eye out for Moon – a sparklingly inventive British science-fiction brain-teaser whose UK release is scheduled for July (no coincidence that the release coincides with the anniversary of the Apollo lunar landing). Another of my EIFF highlights, Sin Nombre, comes out in August: it's an incident-packed, stylishly-handled tale of migration and gang-violence set in Central America.

Currently without UK distribution – but no less worthy of note – are Easier With Practice, a touching small-scale American "indie" that wouldn't look out of place in our Uncharted States strand at Bradford, while from above the 49th parallel there's Pontypool, a thumpingly enjoyable comedy-horror that gets round an evidently limited budget by almost entirely unfolding within the walls of a small-town radio station. Think "early David Cronenberg" with a 21st-century post-modern twist.

Apart from these newer features – Edinburgh presents itself as a "festival of discovery", perhaps even the European answer to Sundance – I also got a kick out of the Roger Corman retrospective, especially the sumptuous Edgar Allan Poe adaptation The Masque Of The Red Death (1964) and also his very un-typically topical and political race-hate expose, The Intruder (1962) – starring an unfeasibly young William Shatner.

Corman was here in person to introduce several of his movies and recount fascinating anecdotes from his amazing career via an on-stage interview with Kim Newman – delighting a packed audience that included one of his many successful proteges, Joe Dante (of Howling and Gremlins fame).

This is quite a celebrity-studded festival, with red carpet screenings every night – including the annual appearance by Scotland's living legend among movie-stars (and the idol of our own Ben Eagle), Sean Connery. The festival wraps tomorrow with the UK premiere of Adam – I've been here since the opening night and, as Mr C might put it, I've been shaken and stirred.

Over and out – for a little while, anyway.

Photo by Flickr user byronv2