Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Carpets and must be the Cinema Museum

As my first Groupon purchase, we went for a jolly to the Cinema Museum in Kennington.  I was envisaging a mini-BFI but I was a tad mistaken.  What greeted us was a run-down workhouse, giant Charlie Chaplin outline, more photographs than you could shake a projectionist's overall at and a charming Aberdonian, whose collection makes up the Cinema Museum.  Whatever aspect of cinema you can think of you will find here from usherette uniforms to seating to unused rolls of carpet.  There are over a million photographic images, films, trailers, projectors, fragrance used to cover the smell of smoke and a library of dedicated film and cinema publications.

Carpet swatches
What was most impressive, however, was the wealth of knowledge that lied with Roland, the owner/curator/archivist/enthusiast.  The 90 minute tour can easily spiral out of control with the multitude of corridors, rooms of towering boxes, cans and cans of film and walls covered in memorabilia.  But it is a rare thing to find someone as knowledgeable and enthusiastic about his collection.  He has been in the industry for decades and has had a love of 'pictures' since he was a boy...and you can tell.  

My inner professional came out and I probed about the collections further.  The Museum has archives and a library but nothing has been catalogued as such and I just wonder what is in there that is unique and could be of incredible benefit to researchers in this area.  Due to lack of funds there is little opportunity to accommodate researchers and the majority get re-routed to the BFI.  The volunteer staff do hold many events and the Museum is working hard to bring in money but if they are to purchase their premises, as appears to be necessary, (some £2-5 million) they will need a small miracle.

None of this '12' and 'PG' - my personal favourite is 'H'

I find this sort of situation incredibly frustrating.  The heritage sector is perpetually strapped for cash and yet is the one that preserves our history and allows us to learn from our shared past to create a successful and informed future.  Sometimes we are all in too much of a hurry in our lives to consider the bigger picture (no pun intended) and how our money might be better spent.  What will happen to this collection in the long term?  It is fairly likely that the items will be split up and sold to separate collectors, such as universities and small museums...but what about Roland's expertise, the glue that holds the collection together?  Something needs to happen now to ensure that collections like this are preserved for the future generations, who won't know anything about projection screens, metal tickets or continuous showings from opening to closing.

So, I would highly recommend a visit and a nosy (and a donation).  If you have any spare time and want a bit of a challenge in the old cataloging realm then volunteering here would be a fantastic help to them.  It is a mine of information and it would be kind of cool to say that you had worked in the same workhouse as Charlie Chaplin!

Charlie Chaplin by twm1340, on Flickr

Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License  by  twm1340 

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