Museum of the Moving Image (London)

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The Museum of the Moving Image (MOMI) was a museum of the history of technology and media, including cinema and its forerunners. MOMI was opened on 15 September 1988 by Prince Charles and became an instant international hit and winning 18 awards.Template:Citation needed The museum was sited below Waterloo Bridge and formed part of the cultural complex on the South Bank of the River Thames, London, England. MOMI was mainly funded by private subscription and operated by the British Film Institute. MOMI continued to be praised internationally but despite its worldwide acclaim, after the retirement of its founders, the British Film Institute simply lost interest in its popular appeal. MOMI was closed "temporarily" in 1999 (a letter to the London Evening Standard on 31 August 1999 claimed this was cultural vandalism by the BFI), with the closure becoming permanent soon after. An article in the Magic Lantern Society Journal claimed "(MOMI was)... born out of love and generosity, but it seems you have passed away stifled by mediocrity and indifference."Template:Citation needed

An exhibition called Moving Images opened at the Sheffield Millennium Galleries in 2002. The exhibition offered a scaled down version of MOMI using actors and items from the museum collection to tell the history of the moving image. It was planned as the first location of a touring exhibition but was not well received and the tour was cancelled.


MOMI was the brainchild of National Film Theatre Controller Leslie Hardcastle. Hardcastle's vision was realised by significant fundraising by then Director of the BFI, Anthony Smith and a development team including David Francis, David Robinson and the designer Neal Potter.

Smith raised the museum's £15m project costs entirely from private sources.

Museum interpretation

Interpretation was done through graphics, interactive exhibits, recreated environments, models, six 35 mm film projections using endless loop platters, two 16 mm film projections, two 70 mm projectors, and over 70 LaserDisc players for video playback. There was also a group of six actors dressed in period costume (e.g. a Victorian magic lanternist and a Hollywood director).

A few months before MOMI opened in 1988, the animator Chuck Jones was invited to create a chase sequence directly onto the high walls of the museum. Jones spent several days working on high scaffolding to create the work. At the lowest level on a door is a smaller drawing (not part of the chase) which Jones used to try out the pens.

Animation played an important role in MOMI. Channel Four funded the Channel Four/MOMI animator in residence scheme. Winners of the competition developed a short film in the 'goldfish bowl', a three-meter-square glass box; this allowed the public to see the animator's every move. Over forty films were produced and they won many awards worldwide.

The excitement which grew as MOMI neared opening was fueled when the Museum bought Marilyn Monroe's black dress from Some Like it Hot, for £19,800. The event featured on the front pages of many UK newspapers.

There was a busy education department with two education rooms and a small cinema for special events. The museum was very popular for private hire for corporate events or parties.

Temporary exhibitions at MOMI included: Charlie Chaplin's Centenary, Ray Harryhausen, Pop Video, The Western Film, Judy Garland, George Melies, Special Effects in the Cinema, and Imagine (the next 100 years of the moving image).

List of Galleries

Tricking the Eye, Shadow puppets, Early optical device, The Phantasmagoria, Optical toys, Photography, Magic lanterns, Projection, Persistence of vision, The arrival of Cinema (Lumiere Brothers), Early Technical advances, British Pioneers including Birt Acres, Méliès, The early cinemas World War I, The formation of Hollywood, The Temple to the Gods of the Silent Cinema, Charlie Chaplin, The Russian Agit prop Train, Experimental Film, German Expressionism, The coming of sound film, Censorship, Newsreel, The Documentary Movement, Cinema of France, Animation, The Hollywood Studio System, The Great days of cinema going in Britain including Odeon Cinemas, British film, World War II, Cinema architecture, The arrival of television, Expansion of television, Cinema fights television, World Cinema, Television heritage, Television today, a Doctor Who exhibit that was used in several documentaries about the early years of the show, plus a temporary exhibition area

Museum building

MOMI was housed in a glass-sided steel framed metal-clad building (designed by Bryan Avery of Avery Associates Architects), with red roofs running along each side of Waterloo Bridge.

Site redevelopment

The MOMI site reopened as BFI Southbank on 14 March 2007, providing a new entrance to the National Film Theatre complex. In addition to the existing three cinemas showcasing the best historical and contemporary film from around the world, the BFI Southbank site has a gallery, a mediatheque of British film and television, and a bookshop within an active programme that includes the annual London Film Festival. [1] Although there was talk that Bradford's National Media Museum planned to open a London venue, London still has no publicly funded film museum. The lack of a permanent national collection exhibiting UK screen heritage beyond the filmic text, and interpreting the broader historical context for the history of the moving image, means that the old MOMI is still missed among cinema aficionados and film students.Template:Citation needed



External links