Medieval Bridge over Exe
Medieval Bridge over Exe



“Twopence a pint then off to watch Captain Scott’s adventures on 36mm black and white film”.   Where was this? I hear you say, well……………

A group of us met for coffee at Queens Building, before heading off to visit the Bill Douglas Centre.


We were welcomed by Mike Ricard, the Assistant Curator, who showed us into the Centre which houses over 1,800 objects of cinema and theatrical interest, dating from the 1800s to the present day.   Who would have thought that Toy Story and Shrek would now be in a film museum?


We had fun looking at the ‘What the Butler Saw’ machine, and all the optical toys of the time.  Shadow puppets were also a great favourite with children in the days before cinema.


Dioramas, Magic Lanterns, Marilyn Munroe, Sophia Loren, and 007 photos all brought back memories of their favourite film or hero for so many of us.


Mike explained that Exeter students take a very active part in displaying, researching and preserving all the exhibits as part of their studies.   This can contribute as much as 50% to their final degree.  He told us that there are a further 74,000 items in storage at the moment as space in the Centre is now so limited.   Maybe in the future a bigger building will be made available for this wonderful collection.


The museum was named in memory of Bill Douglas (1934-1991) a film director renowned as one of British cinema’s greatest talents. One film that in particular comes to mind is Comrades (1987) about the Tolpuddle Martyrs.


While on National Service Bill met Peter Jewell, a like-minded film enthusiast and between them they started the collection which is now established as one of the foremost museums and research facilities on the moving image in the world.  Peter, now in his eighties, still contributes articles for the museum and even lectures!


Many students of yesterday have gone on to be involved with the ‘silver screen’, either in technology, direction or research.


We were encouraged to take a look at their website for further details – it makes for very interesting reading:


Mike was sincerely thanked by all for his time and for such an interesting talk.


Janet Gale

Programme Organiser, Visits & Walks

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