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In our continuing series of musings on heritage and conservation, and how culture and its past, present and future is so essential to human beings’ understanding of and connection to themselves and the world about us, we bring you ‘What makes a great holiday?’…

Knotted handkerchiefs, string vests, rolled up trousers, melting ice cream, woollen bathing suits, sandcastles and deckchairs, whole families playing leapfrog down on the sands – all these personal seaside memories are gathered together in a 600-strong collection called Coast and Sea. They’re all archive film clips and excerpts from different holiday locations around the country shot between 1898 and 2000 and you’ll find them on the British Film Institute (@BFI) website. This flickering footage offers a tantalising glimpse into past times and reveals that, 100 years ago, going to the beach was a far more active affair than it is now; a bracing, invigorating and, frankly, exhausting day out was par for the course. They also reveal an answer to our question, posed at the top: “Mostly, fish and chips at the end of the day!”

It’s thanks to the tireless conservation efforts of the BFI and their stunning state-of-the-art Master Film Store at Gaydon in Warwickshire that this film footage survives and is watchable. From the earliest days up to the mid-50s, filmmakers used cellulose nitrate stock – chemically unstable, liable to burst into flames and swift to fall into irrevocable decay. Safer film stock – acetate – came into use from the 1950s onwards. It was certainly less combustible but was prone to ‘vinegar syndrome’ when exposed to too much heat or moisture. The BFI Master Film Store houses approximately 140 million feet of that flammable nitrate film and all the master film collection held on acetate or other media at the optimal archiving temperature of -5°C and 35% relative humidity.

Of course, Restore knows a thing or two about the storage requirements for precious items – whether that’s crucial corporate information or nationally important heritage artefacts. Our deep storage for disaster recovery back-up tapes and our fantastic collaborative Heritage Storage Scheme, where we work with the National Conservation Service to ensure compliance with the stringent PD5454:2012, are entirely set up to offer the best possible storage solutions at the most cost-effective price. Check us out at restore.co.uk/store/heritage-storage.aspx

Oh, and to the question posed at the top, we want some more answers… on a postcard!

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