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Whether used in schools in Europe or in ‘development’ projects across colonial Africa, the filmstrip was one of the most popular and prevalent media forms in the mid-twentieth century (1930s-1970s). Often composed of a series of 40-50 images, accompanied by a commentary booklet or audio recording, the 35mm filmstrip can be seen as a precursor to modern pedagogical tools, like Powerpoint, and was in many places more widely used than film. Indeed, its ease of use, affordability and adaptability ensured that it was used extensively across the globe in education and development projects (including Asia and Eastern Europe), championed by governments and, in the aftermath of war, international organisations, such as UNESCO. The filmstrip was at the centre of developments in visual education, used in health, in industry, by church and religious groups, by military and state organisations, whether offering direct instruction or promoting broader civic values. Here is a media form that connects images, from rarely seen photographs, diagrams, and artworks, with text, often written by disciplinary experts or celebrated and influential authors.

Yet, the filmstrip today is so often missing; missing from histories of education; missing from histories of film and media which privilege the ‘moving’ image; missing from the multiple disciplines that the filmstrip interacted with and informed; and missing from broader studies of nation-building, government and post-war reconstruction. Its place is often unknown, both literally and figuratively. Invariably falling outside both film and paper archives, filmstrips often evade collection and institutional curation, broken up in disparate collections, retrieved from schools, divorced of context and cast adrift from related materials, such as films, books and images.

This website is supported by the RSE (Research Network Grant) and aims both to locate filmstrip collections, scattered across British archives and institutions, and also to generate original research, insights and dialogue on these collections.