In Autumn 2021 and into 2022 I was lucky enough to be able to join Zoë, Film Curator at Wessex Film and Sound Archive (WFSA) on a 3-month Student Placement. I am currently in my second year at Winchester University studying towards a degree in History. Although current Covid restrictions meant that the majority of the placement was done remotely, it was still a fascinating insight into the world of archives, and more specifically, the preservation of film and sound from the Wessex region. 

Before starting the placement, I was unaware of just how much history the archive held, and how varied the film footage can be – from footage of the discovery of the Mary Rose, to more personal footage documenting everyday family life within the area.

I was also unaware that the archive accepted deposits from members of the public of recent film footage, not just more ‘historic’ film, and the importance of continuing to build up the collection for future generations to be able to use.  

During my placement I was able to view amateur film footage held in the collection, specifically looking at film from the 1960s. It was important to understand the meaning this film had, both as a documentation of the lives of the filmmakers, and as a wider cultural record of the lives of people at the time. One example of this was the films that had been deposited by the Chopra family. Seeing the recordings of their time spent together as a family, including birthday parties and days out at the seaside, felt really privileged. I was lucky enough to be able to contact a family member and ask them questions about the filmmaker, Jiwan Prakash Chopra, and how important this film was to their family. With their permission, I was able to write my research up for a blog post for Hampshire Archives and Local Studies, which was shared alongside some clips of the film which have featured on social media and the WFSA YouTube channel.  The slideshow below, contains images taken from the Chopra collection.

Through this, not only does it show the public the kind of archives that the WFSA hold, it also shares the message that members of the public can deposit their own film, and add to this collection of varied cultural history.  

I was lucky enough, as restrictions eased, to be able to spend a day with Zoë at the archives. This was my favourite part of my time on the placement, as it was an opportunity to see how Zoë works on a day-to-day basis, and get to know her better. I was able to ask her questions about her role, and the different things she does as part of her work at WFSA. We got to use the new cine scanner to view some footage of another filmmaker who I had been looking at, and to use the new equipment to take clips of it that we could share further on social media. It was great to be able to physically view the film and to be able to use some of the equipment myself. After spending time at the archives, I am definitely keen to look into further opportunities to do it again.  

I could not recommend applying for this placement enough. It was a great opportunity for anyone interested in history, film, heritage or archives, or for anybody who wants to understand more about how places like WFSA work, and how they engage with and share their archives with the public. It changed how I looked at history and historical sources, which has since influenced how I approach my degree. But more importantly, I am now much more aware of how important places like this are. Historians heavily rely on documents and paper archives for their research, but as we move into the future, there will be a shift to more reliance on audio and visual sources, such as the films held here. Therefore, it will become more and more important to keep a record of such things, and for the public to be aware of how important the film is that they record, often daily, and their ability to deposit such footage with places like this. And we need people like Zoë and WFSA to keep facilitating this.  

Hannah Bolt, Student, University of Winchester 

WFSA offers at least two cohorts of student placements each year, which are advertised through universities, colleges and through our own social media.

You can find out more about contributing to the archive in jubilee year here. 

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