The British Council Film Collection is an archive of 120 short documentary films made by the British Council during the 1940s designed to show the world how Britain lived, worked and played. Preserved by the BFI National Film Archive and digitised by means of a generous donation by Google, the films are now yours to view, to download and to play with for the first time.

The resource also includes ‘trivia, photos, and screen grabs, as well as the original synopses’, plus ‘Case Studies‘ and ‘Essays‘ by those involved in the preservation and digitisation project.  Remarkably, and in contrast to many of the digital archival resources discussed on our wesite, the British Council is actively encouraging us to download and play with its documentary footage.  110 films are available under a Creative Commons ‘Attribution-Non-Commercial’ licence, which means that users can do what they like with them, as long as the British Council is attributed and the purpose is non-commerical.

The British Council observes that:

Digitisation isn’t a replacement to archiving, but a means to provide anyone around the world with unlimited access to films that need great attention and care. With digital technologies and ever-wider internet access and faster speeds, it means that we can both protect the original film stock whilst providing the public with 24-hour worldwide unlimited access.

The British Council is currently running a competition – View from Here – which invites users to repurpose the films, ‘to use [them] to tell us another story about Britain – or about your own country – now.’  The website includes useful links to film-making resources.  The competition closes on Friday 29 August, so you’ve still got time…