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Case Study: Ulster Television Archive

Aug 26 2020
Since June, R3store Studios has been busy working on a massive digitisation project for Northern Ireland Screen and the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI).
Canadian Beauties at Belfast Airport
Canadian Beauties at Belfast Airport.

Northern Ireland Screen is the lead agency for the screen industries in Northern Ireland . Together with PRONI, the official archive for Northern Ireland, and ITV, the group has been working in partnership to preserve the Ulster Television Archive and make it accessible through a variety of digitisation and public engagement projects. Funded and supported by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland through its Archiving Scheme 2 and the Department for Communities (DfC), this project will allow for the digitisation of 160 hours of UTV archive.

Factory girls have a day out
Factory girls have a day out.

Going on air on 31 October 1959, Ulster Television was the first commercial broadcaster on the island of Ireland. Its archive holds hundreds of reels of 16mm cinefilm which includes the earliest news materials ever recorded by the station. The digitisation project is focused on the first decade of the station and the key years from 1959-1969, a period in which Northern Ireland went through significant historical and cultural changes, events that are forever preserved in the footage of this archive. The collection therefore captures a defining period not only in the life of the station but of the region – with the late-1960s marking the beginning of ‘The Troubles’, a conflict that would define Northern Ireland in the subsequent decades.

Screaming Lord Sutch discusses his music career and political ambitions
Screaming Lord Sutch discusses his music career and political ambitions.

Aside from portraying the key political and social milestones of the era, this material also portrays the cultural life of Northern Ireland, with famous visitors making appearances – from Tom Jones to Stanley Matthews, Laurence Olivier to the Beatles… and more!

George Best (R) at football training
George Best (R) at football training

“The R3store team are very excited to be working on this fantastic project with Northern Ireland Screen and PRONI. A lot of this material hasn't been seen since it was first aired so we are looking forward to uncovering some real gems in this collection”, says COO Jo Griffin.

Much of this material hasn’t been seen since its initial transmission over half a century ago, and even more has been entirely unseen as it was never broadcast. This has made it such a pleasure and privilege for the R3store team to have the opportunity to digitise this material for the public and to preserve it for future generations to come. Gerry Gedge, Head of Grading says “My favourite item so far was Van Morrison being interviewed about bus strikes in Belfast!”

Peter Alliss, pro golfer at an NI tournament
Peter Alliss, pro golfer at an NI tournament

“With the support of the BAI – through their Archiving Scheme 2 – and contribution funding from the Department for Communities we can digitise and safeguard a unique part of our broadcasting history. We are delighted to be working with them, our key partners PRONI and ITV and the team at R3store on this project, ensuring not only that this wonderful footage is preserved for future generations but that its cultural, educational and entertainment value can be realised by audiences today," says Francis Jones, Heritage and Archive Manager, Northern Ireland Screen.

What a prize cow
What a prized cow!

Find out more about Northern Ireland Screen https://www.northernirelandscreen.co.uk/

Find out more about Northern Ireland Screen’s Digital Film Archive https://digitalfilmarchive.net/index

Find out more about PRONI https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/proni

Find out more about Broadcasting Authority of Ireland https://www.bai.ie/en/ 

Find out more about the Department of Communities https://www.communities-ni.gov.uk/