Northern Ireland Screen has today launched its latest archive collection initiative, "Northern Ireland Now: Contemporary Collecting". The innovative project seeks to address underrepresentation in the Digital Film Archive, championing equality, diversity, and inclusion, while fostering collaboration and advancing the skills of those working in the field of moving image curation in Northern Ireland.
Since 2000, the Digital Film Archive team at Northern Ireland Screen has carefully curated thousands of hours of moving image footage from 1987 to the present day. However, recognising that the archive lacks contemporary material related to several key themes and communities – including ethnic minorities, diversity of religious belief, disabled people, neurodivergent people, LGBTQIA+ individuals, and working-class communities, especially young men – Northern Ireland Screen is calling for contemporary content submissions to ensure the Digital Film Archive is a more accurate and representative reflection of contemporary life in Northern Ireland.
The "Northern Ireland Now: Contemporary Collecting" project is increasing access to archival material with the support of the BFI, awarding funds from the National Lottery, led by Northern Ireland Screen and supported by the Nerve Centre. The project will prioritise content that showcases diversity and inclusion and helps us bridge gaps and address imbalances in our collections. Outdated language and concepts found in older archival holdings will also be addressed to ensure the content is relevant, respectful and carries content warnings where applicable.
Francis Jones, Head of Heritage and Archive at Northern Ireland Screen’s Digital Film Archive officially launched the project, commenting: “We’ve been carefully curating the Digital Film Archive for over twenty years and engaging with communities across Northern Ireland exhibiting our cultural heritage, through community, school and historical society presentations and engagement sessions showcasing the history of Northern Ireland’s traditions, customs, and artistic expressions. However, we recognise we need to address collection gaps and rectify underrepresentation within the archive and by embracing the power of partnership, the "Northern Ireland Now: Contemporary Collecting" project will ensure the archive better reflects contemporary themes and the diversity of life today. We’re also embracing different types of contemporary content for the first time such as memes, viral videos, parodies, and topical content.”
"Northern Ireland Now: Contemporary Collecting" will collaborate with organisations and individuals across Northern Ireland. Through an outreach engagement programme led by Nerve Centre, groups will be empowered to contribute their voice to archive during sessions that will explore areas such as content curation, cataloguing, digital preservation and promotion.
Niall Kerr, Head of Heritage & Community Relations at the Nerve Centre commented: “Nerve Centre is passionate about engaging communities and individuals from all areas of Northern Ireland through innovative, digital approaches that encourage people to have an active say. This project is a unique opportunity for interested groups to share their love of film and use the medium to enhance and better reflect their own backgrounds, in turn building a more cohesive view of modern society.”
Marta Berto, Screen Heritage Fund Manager at the BFI commented: “We’re proud to support Northern Ireland Now: Contemporary Collecting with National Lottery funding and are delighted to see the project launch as it is a significant step forward in preserving the diverse narratives and experiences of Northern Ireland. Through collaboration, innovation, and a commitment to inclusion, this project promises to make Northern Ireland Screen’s Digital Film Archive a more accurate and representative reflection of the nation’s contemporary life.”
Once all of the contemporary content has been collected it will undergo thorough cataloguing and contextualization to ensure public access and understanding before being added to the Digital Film Archive to allow for digital preservation and public access.
Knowledge acquired through the Northern Ireland Now: Contemporary Collecting project will help inform Belfast Stories, the flagship project within the tourism and regeneration strand of the Belfast Region City Deal. Belfast Stories, a new visitor attraction due to open in 2029 will be housed at the site on the corner of Royal Avenue and North Street and includes one of Belfast’s most beloved heritage buildings, the art deco former Bank of Ireland building. It will feature a collection of stories reflecting the unique spirit of Belfast through a variety of media and a mix of immersive experiences.
The Northern Ireland Now project will run until spring 2025 with opportunities for a wide range of organisations, groups and individuals to get involved. For more information and to register your interest, visit www.nervecentre.org/culture/northern-ireland-now