I went to an interesting event last Monday night for UNESCO World Audio Visual Archives Heritage day, held at BAFTA in London.

Professor John Ellis (Department of Media Arts, Royal Holloway, University of London) talked about the growing use of TV archives, particularly news footage, in academia, pointing out that over time such material becomes increasingly valuable in such diverse areas as physiology – for example in studying the effects of ageing by analysing footage of presenters and actors who have had long careers, and town planning, as footage can reveal the buildings that previously occupied a site being considered for redevelopment.

As UK law permits academic institutions to record and keep TV and radio broadcasts for purely educational purposes, a database of material has been collected. Academia remains currently a verbal rather than visual culture, but this seems to be changing. All politicians, for example, are now so TV literate that to study them without reference to their TV appearances would be strange.

Fiona Maxwell (Director of Operations at ITV Global Entertainment), then talked about the painstaking restoration of the 1948 film The Red Shoes. She provided lots of technical details about removing mould and correcting registration errors, but also showed “before and after” clips so we could see the huge improvements.