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BBC marks 100 years with online collections and museum exhibitions

The BBC is celebrating its centenary throughout 2022 by launching three online collections and physical exhibitions in museums across the UK.

The British Broadcasting Company was established in October 1922 as a private enterprise and was renamed in 1927 as the British Broadcasting Corporation as it moved to a public service model. The BBC started out as a wireless broadcaster, and continued to embrace new technology, establishing the world’s first regular scheduled TV service in 1936 and BBC iPlayer, its video on demand service, in 2007.

Three online exhibitions

The first edition of the in-house Radio Times magazine is published in 1923. It’s still published today and retains its name despite listing TV programmes and boxsets from the BBC

Three exhibitions have been launched, in partnership with the Science Museum Group, on a BBC 100 website which features as objects, faces and voices of the corporation as well as an interactive year-by-year timeline covering key moments in the BBC’s first 100 years

While it has been a pioneering service, and documented the milestones of a nation, it has also had to navigate criticism and threats to its survival mainly surrounding its funding through a television licence fee.

Licence fee threat

Over the weekend Culture Secretary, Nadine Dorries announced a two-year licence fee freeze and plans to abolish it completely by 2027.

She tweeted yesterday: “This licence fee announcement will be the last. The days of the elderly being threatened with prison sentences and bailiffs knocking on doors, are over. Time now to discuss and debate new ways of funding, supporting and selling great British content.”

Championing museums

The Art Fund Museum of the Year is broadcast on BBC radio and TV

The BBC regularly champions museums on its television, radio and internet channels with its TV documentary series Secrets of the Museum and the radio programme Front Row, which commentates on the arts and hosts the Museum of the Year prize.

Amol Rajan, the BBC’s Media Editor said: “As the BBC turns 100, a British government officially turns against the licence fee as the best way to fund it.

“Nadine Dorries is not arguing against the existence of the BBC, but is now formally opposed to a compulsory levy on households that own a TV. She argues that it potentially criminalises the vulnerable, including the elderly.

“Defenders of the licence fee argue it is the least bad mechanism, and moving to a Netflix-style subscription model would force the BBC to serve subscribers rather than be universal.”

The announcement follows lengthy negotiations between the government and the BBC over the future funding settlement.

The new collections

  • 100 Objects features some of the BBC’s most iconic items, including technology, props, documents, artwork and buildings – such as the classic BBC microphone; Mr Darcy’s shirt from Pride & Prejudice; the mirror globe used as an early TV ident; and Roy Plomley’s proposal letter for Desert Island Discs –  which help tell the quintessential story of the BBC. The objects are curated in partnership with a selected museums, including the Science Museum Group
  • 100 Faces is a new collection of 100 iconic photos from the BBC photographic archive. From correspondents in the field, actors on set, or monarchs speaking to the nation, this is a collection of well-loved BBC personalities and contributors that unpacks the magic and mystery of broadcasting through the years. It is devised with the Radio Times
  • The 100 Voices oral history collection reveals stories of the men and women who worked at the BBC and created its unique culture. It covers News and Elections; The Birth of TV; Radio Reinvented; People, Nation, Empire; Pioneering Women; Entertaining the Nation; and Planning the Future. This collection is curated in partnership with the University of Sussex, under Professor David Hendy

Amazing history

Robert Seatter, BBC’s Head of History, says: “The BBC has an amazing history which belongs to us all. As we mark 100 years of our BBC, these new digital resources, partner exhibitions, research and publications give a unique insight into the history of the Corporation and provide something to intrigue audiences of all ages.”

In addition to the BBC 100 website, BBC History has worked with a range of cultural and academic partners around the BBC’s centenary.

Major exhibition programme in museums

These include the Science Museum Group, which will digitise 1,000 BBC objects for the first time and launch a major exhibition and events programme across the UK. Other regional museum partners will also mark the centenary through collections and displays.

“On the horizon in Spring 2022 is the digitisation of the 1,000 objects that make up the wider BBC Heritage collection, to be made publicly accessible for the very first time,” said Helen Langwick, Head of Exhibitions and Interpretation, National Science and Media Museum, Bradford.

“And across the whole year we will launch our Broadcast 100 programme of events and exhibitions covering the Science Museum Group in London, Manchester and Bradford.

“This will include ‘Switched On’, our special exhibition at the National Science and Media Museum from July, which will explore the fascinating past of broadcast technologies as well as future possibilities.”

About the author – Adrian Murphy

Adrian is the Editor of MuseumNext and has 20 years’ experience as a journalist, half of which has been writing for the cultural sector.

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