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Wednesday, 21 November, 2001, 19:51 GMT
Nation chronicled in screen archive
Richard Burton
Richard Burton features prominently in the collection
Last-minute preparations are under way for the opening of the National Screen and Sound Archive of Wales which is preserve over a century of film and sound recordings.

Welsh Assembly First Minister Rhodri Morgan will raise the curtain at 1900GMT on Wednesday on a library of more than a century of film footage and sound recordings.

How Green Was My Valley
Some films are obvious contenders for inclusion
The collection is a boon to researchers and historians, telling the stories of Welsh life through the ages in a "one-stop shop" media library.

Housed at the National Library in Aberystwyth, the recordings, which form the most exhaustive repository of Welsh media heritage, date from as early as 1898.

So comprehensive is the archive, it would take 22 years to watch all television programmes in the collection.

And it would take 17 years to play the entire collection of sound recordings, according to archive research officer Dave Berry.

Future history

"It's our heritage," he said. "It's important to preserve our cultural history through music and the moving image.

"This is a wonderful resource for researchers and broadcasters.

"We have been taping programmes from the television for years - history is made every day."

Established with 350,000 from the library and 150,000 from media agency Sgrin, the new launch marks the amalgamation of Aberystwyth-based Wales Film and Television Archive and the Sound and Moving Image Archive.

Archive facts
3.3m ft of film
200,000 hours video
150,000 sound recordings
11,000 published recordings
Documentary, news, animation, home movies, fiction
Offers loan service, research assistance and group screenings
The project is also backed by the British Council, Arts Council of Wales, the Welsh Development Agency and broadcasters and is launched on the eve of the International Film Festival Wales in Cardiff.

Miles of 8mm and 35mm film include fiction, documentary, news, movie and animation material, all of which form a biography of change in a small country.

Originally launched in 1992, the collection spans Richard Burton's 1949 debut in Emlyn Williams's Last Days of Dolwyn and CD recordings of eisteddfod heroines turned opera stars from the 19th century.

Like the Mabinogion of legendary Welsh stories before it, the re-launched archive will amount to a retrospective repository of national tales.

Superted
Animations like Superted are finding their way into Welsh heritage
But there is also more modern material, including a tribute to late Welsh-language comedy duo Ryan and Ronnie and works from Wales' increasingly strong animation industry.

"We have also negotiated to store all of S4C's feature films," Mr Berry told BBC News Online.

"We are taking in some very contemporary work now."

It is hoped a planned public visitor centre will help the archive become increasingly popular with ordinary researchers and not just members of the broadcasting fraternity, who, says Mr Berry, can command a high price for material the NSSAW offers for free.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Iola Baines, National Screen and Sound Archive
"We have over three million feet of film"
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