Silent cinema to ‘selfies’: an archive for the future

Long before social media and Facebook took over the narration of our lives, the potential to capture moments on celluloid created great excitement.

In this wonderful extract of Victorian film from the BFI National Archive, available for free on BFI Player, we watch the Easter tradition of egg rolling in Avenham Park in Preston. This exciting and unusual tradition sees families gathered together in local venues including fairgrounds, village halls and music theatres on Easter Monday to race Easter eggs; a tradition that still exists today!

Filmed in 1901, we see in the foreground the showman lift his hat to the viewer. He would be the person that commissioned this film, and in many ways he is the media entrepreneur of his day. Once recorded, this footage would have been screened in local venues to a fee-paying audience. For the viewer, the thrill was potentially seeing themselves, their friends and family on the big screen and of course being seen by others.

Today, the screens might be smaller, but perhaps the thrill is the same: sharing films, footage and selfies with friends, family and the public at large.

Activity

After having seen the film in its entirety, pause the film at a moment of your choice.

Focus on one person.

Look closely at their facial expression and clothing for clues about them.

Imagine that this person could post this image on a social media platform. What do you think they would write to accompany this image? What might they say about the egg rolling? What might they say about themselves?

Keep your writing to under 140 characters and try to include a Twitter-style hashtag (#). Be as creative (yet respectful) as you can!

Post your 140 characters of writing in the Comments section below.

You could also include a time code (the time at which you stopped the footage), a description and the positioning of your subject, so that other people can find the person you’ve written about.

Please note that we wouldn’t advise working on social media based activities with young people under the age of 13.

How would this activity work in your classroom? Add your comments to the Comments section.

Extension Activity

If you and your class are interested in using archive film in the classroom, then the attached document in the Downloads section might be useful. The Into Archive Film Action Pack provides worksheets and activities to analyse stills and clips from any archive film or photograph.

Share this video:

This video is from the free online course:

Developing Literacy: A Journey from Still Image to Film

Into Film