New Discoveries Film Series | Paul Mellon Centre

A fascinating new film series, commissioned to be released in time for the Paul Mellon Centre’s autumn round of funding opportunities, reveals hidden stories, fascinating objects and lost narratives.

Since 1970 the Paul Mellon Centre has funded research into British art and architecture, helping to foster new research and unearth fascinating narratives of history. Ahead of the opening of the Autumn 2021 round of funding opportunities, the Centre has commissioned Shelbourne Films to showcase some of the recent important new discoveries made possible by the funding.

Each film is no more than six minutes long, allowing for the story to be woven, illustrated and told in a dynamic and easily consumable way. The films not only highlight new research but also showcase important contributions to scholarship and history. The six films feature a wide range of subjects – from the British Museum’s exhibition ‘Thomas Becket: murder and the making of a saint’ to the resurfacing of forgotten AIDS activist videos and from the admission of women into the Royal Society of Sculptors to the digitisation of the Adam Brothers’ Grand Tour letters and writings – and have been filmed at some iconic venues, including the British Museum, Sir John Soane’s Museum and the British School at Rome.

Watch New Discoveries Films on YouTube 
Watch New Discoveries Films on PMC website

Two of the films are outlined below:

Thomas Becket: Murder and Making of a Saint

Sophie Kelly, Project Curator at the British Museum, tells the fascinating story of how, when preparing the famous ‘miracle’ Thomas Becket stained glass windows for display at the blockbuster Thomas Becket: Murder and Making of a Saint exhibition at the British Museum, they discovered that the panels had been displayed in the wrong order for centuries. By examining the windows close up, Leonie Seliger (Director of the Stained Glass Studio, Canterbury Cathedral) discovered that a figure depicted in one panel with an unidentified miracle scene had spots on his legs. The spots had previously been thought to be signs of corrosion on the glass, but, after more research, they were found to be purposeful, in fact spots of paint used to depict leprosy, which correlated to a famous story of Becket curing a man with leprosy. Like a jigsaw, the panels could then be rearranged correctly to show the miracle story as first intended.

Sophie Kelly was supported by a Paul Mellon Centre Curatorial Research Grant.

Video Activism before the Internet

Ed Webb-Ingall’s research on the community video movement (which originated in the 1970s) helps to resurface forgotten AIDS activist videos in the UK. Misrepresented and underrepresented groups were able to use newly available video technology to film their own experiences, which were often very different to those depicted on national television. These videos, made between 1983 and 1993, help to shed light on an area of Queer history that still isn’t readily represented or recognised. Through the New Discoveries film, which shows fascinating excerpts from these videos, Ed describes how he has so far located eighteen forgotten AIDS activist videos in the UK and is working to make as many of these as possible available through the London Community Video Archive, opening up narratives that have long been ignored.

Ed Webb-Ingall was supported by a Paul Mellon Centre Postdoctoral Fellowship.

Further videos in the series:
• Pioneering Women at the Heart of the Royal Society of Sculptors, Rosamund Lily West, filmed at the Royal Society of Sculptors, London
• Robert & James Adam’s Grand Tour Letters and Writings, Colin Thom and Adriano Aymonino, filmed at Sir John Soane’s Museum, London
• Robert Turnbull Macpherson and his Photographic Vedute of Rome, Wilfried E. Keil, filmed at the British School at Rome, Rome
• Amusing, Interesting and Curious: A Study of English Paper Peepshows, Shijia Yu, filmed via Zoom