These days, you have to think outside of the box about how you engage with new audiences, in particular how you can make archive material an integral part of the school curriculum. In Wessex Film and Sound Archive (WFSA) we’ve been doing quite a lot of work around reaching out to this audience.

Why use archive film in schools?

Archive film can provide a great starting point for discussion: it can be fun, interesting and challenging. When sitting a class down to watch a film and inviting comments – what are the first observations children will make? How can these observations be turned to promote investigation and enquiry?

Archive film is ideal for developing and supporting the skills of investigation and enquiry, key abilities outlined by the curriculum in history.   It offers a unique insight into the past, which other static sources are unable to convey. The ability of the moving image to create a living link with the past – to express how something moved in reality or how things interacted with one another, is not found in any other medium in quite the same way.

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Clips showing the Air Raid Precautions Service in action, 1939.

Archive film brings history to life – it enlivens the dialogue we have with an image and allows us to formulate questions which might not otherwise have arisen in our minds when examining another type of primary source.

Does archive film create a greater sense of empathy? Do we somehow engage on a more personal level with the characters in a moving image than we would do in a photograph? By using archive film in schools can we provide an opportunity for children and young people to really connect with history?

I remember the days when the TV trolley was wheeled into the classroom (and the accompanying excitement that we might be watching something interesting!)- times have changed and technology has changed with them. School, more than ever, is a multimedia experience, and where better to showcase footage of our history than with the next generation?!

Furthermore, it needn’t all be history based. Yes, local history is a great way in for archive film, but there are so many other ways of making the material relevant and interesting. If we can effectively identify quirky and interesting footage and suggest ways that teachers might use it across the curriculum, archive film can find a home in almost any lesson plan.  

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Example of materials delivered to schools

Wessex Film and Sound Archive’s two school projects are currently being rolled out to two schools in the Havant area of Hampshire. Keep a check on our social media for updates on how this goes.

Facebook @wessexarchive // Twitter @wessexfilm //Instagram @wessexfilmsoundarchive // Pinterest @wessexfilm

Zoe Viney, Film Archive Officer

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