Jet off to planet Pictureville

25th October 1996 at 01:00
Gerard Benson is tempted to read the news and fly on a magic carpet at the National Museum of Photography, Film and Television.

Where can you fly on a magic carpet and watch yourself doing it? In your dreams maybe, but a more reliable way would be to visit the National Museum of Photography, Film and Television - the most visited museum in Britain outside London.

Custom-built in the centre of Bradford, it opened in 1983. The six-storey building houses a breathtaking range of state-of-the-art technology and media-linked artefacts. Many of the displays are interactive, so that the visitor can read the news on television, and then watch the result; operate a television camera or fly the magic carpet (over the flames of hell, if required).

One floor is devoted to camera obscura at one end of the historical spectrum and at the other Nickelodeon, the popular children's satellite channel is broadcast from a studio on the sixth floor. Children can attend while the studio is operating and experience editing and live television. They can talk back on Nickelodeon's video box, or if camera-shy, chat to the technicians who make the programmes.

In the galleries, there is a series of exhibitions. Currently, there are three on family life, two by professional photographers. Of particular interest to TES readers, though, is "Snaps R Us", an exhibition created by a class of Year 4 local children, using their own family albums, the museum's collections and specially-posed photographs. It is a terrific display and is on until December 1.

The museum's education department is an enterprising and active unit. It offers many activities at all key stages, as well as Inset days for teachers.

The museum has excellent facilities for disabled visitors, with braille signage and infra-red systems for the hearing-impaired in the cinemas, as well as wheelchair access.

There are two cinemas: the IMAX screen (the size of a five-storey house) shows films every day and Pictureville, one of the best-equipped and most comfortable cinemas in the country. It shows a mixture of circuit and art films (Ian McKellen's Richard III was premiered there). It is also equipped to show wide-screen Cinerama.

Each year, there are three major film festivals, as well as lectures and workshops from industry professionals. Most recently, Ray Harryhausen, a leading expert on animation and special effects whose work includes Jason and the Argonauts and Clash of the Titans, gave a master class on his craft.

The Kodak Gallery has a permanent exhibition of more than 50,000 objects, which chronicle the history of photography. Teachers' notes and packs are available and anyone who leaves still believing that the camera can't lie should plan a return visit as soon as possible.

The National Museum of Photography, Film and Television, Pictureville, Bradford BD1 1NQ. Contact the education department on 01274 725347. Open 10am-6pm, Tuesday to Sunday. The museum is closed on Mondays except during holidays and at half term.

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