100 Years Of Wildlife Films Goes Online With WildFilmHistory Site

By Marian Cleary | 25 February 2008
black and white photo of a bearded man with a film camera and a meerkat standing in front of it

Richard Goss filming Meercats United. Courtesy Wildscreen

A fascinating archive of wildlife films from the last 100 years will be available online this week when www.wildfilmhistory.org goes live.

The website, created by Bristol-based conservation charity Wildscreen and digital British wildlife library ARKive, will be launched on Tuesday February 26 2008. Two years in the making, WildFilmHistory celebrates the pioneering people and landmark productions in the world of natural history film-making.

black and white photo of a man in an old fashioned zookeeper's cap holding a penguin

Children's favourite Johnny Morris. Courtesy Wildscreen

The Heritage Lottery-backed site gathers together over 150 milestone films and 400 photographs from pioneers and personalities of natural history filming and photography. The collection takes us from The Boxing Kangaroo, first shown in 1895, through to current exponents of the art of recording wildlife such as Sir David Attenborough. The website will also allow access to more than 90 hours of interviews with figures from the industry both past and present.

A black and white photograph of an underwater photographer standing next to coral.

Hans Hass. Courtesy Wildscreen

"This is a terrific resource for everyone who enjoys watching wildlife films or is interested in the history of popular television," said wildlife TV presenter Nick Baker. "The collection includes many of the people and programmes that inspired me to get in on the action!"

"The very early stuff is especially amazing," he continued. "On the one hand it intrigues the viewer with what the filmmakers could achieve within the limits of what was technically possible. On the other hand, what they thought it was okay to do is just jaw-droppingly awful by modern standards!"

A 1950s black and white photograph of a man and a woman stand behind a film camera.

Armand and Michaela Dennis. Courtesy Wildscreen

Curator Derek Kilkenny-Blake also praised the project. "WildFilmHistory is important because, until now, there's been no centralised, cross-referenced, readily-accessible collection of materials about an aspect of our cultural life that is relevant worldwide but especially in Britain - a dominant force in the industry ever since it began," he said.

"There’s increasing interest in such materials because of the insights they offer into changing tastes and values. By bringing them together, we safeguard records which otherwise might be lost."

The online resource will be free to use and as per the Heritage Lottery Fund’s aim, will open up such resources to as many people as possible.

A launch event will take place at Watershed at 6pm, February 26 (tickets £3.50). The website address is www.wildfilmhistory.org.
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