In work early today as we had a film crew coming in from Wingspan Productions to use papers from the League of Nations Union archive for a three part history series for BBC 4. The programme focusses on the history of diplomacy and will be presented by former diplomat, Sir Christopher Meyer, who was British Ammbassador to the US. The programme will include a discussion of the Peace Ballot run by the LNU in 1935, in which over 11 million members of the public answered five questions on the League of Nations and collective security.
The challenge for the archivist in working with television is helping the crew to create a visually interesting image without compromising the safety of the documents or creating a false impression of our work. We want to convey the interest and excitement of working with archives but don’t want potential researchers thinking they can walk into the storage areas or peruse the papers over a hot coffee! To this end the office magnifying glass has had a staring role in several programmes but to the disappointment of some directors we don’t insist on the use of white gloves (except when handling photographs) – they look smart on screen but can make handling fragile paper documents very difficult.
Having an inside view on the process is fascinating – you get to watch the poor presenter repeating their lines over and over again, trying to read the documents while a cameraman looms over their shoulder. Scenes are shot from multiple angles and two hours work could produce less than five minutes screen time.
Now we wait for the autumn to see how we look on screen.