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Archives from the Attic

Plymouth Pasts: a city through the lens


Aided by a £13,000 grant in March 2009 from South West Screen, Plymouth and West Devon Record Office worked closely with the South West Film and Television Archive and other partners to create themed packages of archive moving image. These related to aspects of the city’s past and its changing face as seen through the filmed media of the day. The following are some of the themes that were explored:

  • Plymouth and the sea
  • Changing skyline
  • Transport and tourism
  • Moving to Plymouth
  • Work and play
  • Naval Dockyard

The material is being used to complement paper archives held in the Record Office, so creating a blended archive of moving and static images and each source adding context and detail to the others. The packages are used in a variety of contexts:

  • Online
  • As part of the City Museum’s ‘Plymouth, Port and Place’ gallery display
  • With community outreach and formal education programmes
  • As part of the programming for the Olympic ‘Big Screen’ in central Plymouth

The project was designed to inspire and inform in equal measure, using footage unfamiliar to many to bring to life details of Plymouth’s 20th century history and inviting responses from today’s audiences. ‘Plymouth Pasts’ was a collaborative venture which deliberately harnesses the related materials of two major Plymouth collections and created a resource which allows a large degree of engagement with users.

The project ran until early 2011. For further information email

Online database

Images from the project can be found on our Plymouth Pictured and City through a Lens websites.

Some samples

To view samples the archive moving image footage, click on the links below:

All material is used by kind permission of South West Film and Television Archive.

Plymouth City Centre Exhibition

Our 'City Through a Lens' exhibition was placed in Frankfort Gate, Place de Brest and the Jigsaw Garden (near the Cornwall street entrance to the Drake Circus shopping centre).

Around 70 images were on show, based on the four themes of

  • Home and community
  • Building the city
  • Sea and seaside
  • Transport

They were complemented by film clips from the South West Film and Television Archive (SWFTA), screened at regular intervals on the Big Screen in Armada Way.

The exhibition was made possible thanks to funding from South West Screen and support from the Plymouth City Centre Company and was curated by social enterprise FotoNow.

For images of the displays, see our Flickr page.

UK Film Council Lottery Funded and South west Screen logos