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Visitor looking at a Mediatheque screen at LMA

​A visitor looks at a Mediatheque screen at LMA

  • Film

    ​Skating at Battersea Park, 1958

  • Maps
    ward map

    ​Map of Farringdon Within Ward, 1720

What is a Mediatheque?

The term 'Mediatheque' was first used during the 1980s, when broadcast material (audio and video recordings) was finally recognised as an important cultural testimony, in the same way as archives. Today, there are numerous Mediatheque(s) across the UK and Western Europe. In the UK, for instance, the British Film Institute (BFI) has its own Mediatheque (based in London's Southbank) providing access to a series of film and TV collections spanning over nine decades.

Mediatheque at LMA

Inspired by these Mediatheque(s), in 2011 LMA decided to develop a space that provided on demand access to its films but with added applications, including access to its extensive photographic series and varied collection of maps and plans.  While our image library Collage: The London Picture Archive has been available online for several years, we felt that it was important to provide a point of focus for researchers who want access to all of our sources on the visual history of the capital. 

The Mediatheque space is divided into three defined sections. The first of these sections allows the visitor (or group) an opportunity to enjoy a film on the big screen, using wireless headphones for added comfort and practicality. The second opens up the digital image collections, film and soundarchives for personal research via 10 individual terminals. The third and final supports access to a range of large maps, each documenting the geographical landscape of London over six centuries.

Reference material is also available, including a small library of books and a series of catalogue listings that detail which collections at LMA hold similar material.

Photographs, Prints and Drawings


Throughout the collections at LMA, there exists a range of photographic content in either printed, negative or slide format. One of the largest collections available to view is the London County Council (LCC) / Greater London Council (GLC) collection which was recently digitised as part of a government-led scheme entitled 'New Deal of the Mind'. This collection alone holds over 300,000 photographs depicting all aspects of London life and documenting over 100 years of metropolitan activity in the capital.

To support these collections in Mediatheque, selected access is available either via Collage: The London Picture Archive or via a number of catalogue listings. Material is regularly added to Collage, as we complete the catalogue.

Prints and Drawings

With over 95,000 prints and drawings at LMA, we hold one of the largest collections of London-based visual material in the UK. Ranging from lithographs and watercolours to engravings and etchings, our collections document centuries of social, economic and political London history.

Highlights include work by:

  • William Hogarth (1697-1764)
  • Thomas Rowlandson (1756-1827)
  • Geoffrey Fletcher (1923-2004)
  • George Frederick Sargent (1811-1864)
  • George Cruikshank (1792-1878)

Within Mediatheque, access to a selection of these prints and drawings is available via either Collage: The London Picture Archive or can ordered via our online catalogue.

Maps, Plans and Panoramas

The map collections held at LMA are a combination of those originally found at Guildhall Library (GL), and those acquired by the Greater London Council (GLC). In particlular, those forming the GL collections include works either gifted or purchased over a period of more than century, while those forming the GLC collections include works inherited by its predecessors, the Metropolitan Board of Works and a bequest, by Henry Harben, in 1912. LMA continues to develop these collections and at present, holds over 65,000 maps including Ordnance Survey, Parish and Ward.

Highlights include:

  • 'Panorama of London', by C.J. Visscher (c.1616)
  • 'Civitas Londinium' attributed to Ralph Agas (ed. published c.1633, documenting London in 1561)
  • 'General Views of London', by Wenceslaus Hollar (c.1657)
  • 'Insurance Plan of the City of London', by Charles E.Goad Ltd (c.1880s)
  • 'Facsimiles of Ordnance Surveys', by Alan Godfrey (range 1865-1913)
  • 'Bomb Damage Maps', by London County Council (c.1940s)

Within Mediatheque, access to a selection of these maps is available via either a reference copy, Collage: The London Picture Archive or our interactive resource Magnifying the metropolis.


​The films available to view each explore different aspects of London life – its architecture, people, open spaces and even civic administration. With the earliest dating back to the 1920s, these films showcase events such as the Lord Mayor’s Show, people such as Charles Dickens and Florence Nightingale, and engineering feats such as the Barbican (re-developed following the devastation of the Blitz) and Hammersmith Flyover. Each provide a fascinating insight into the historical, social and economic issues that tested centuries of urban life in the capital and which ultimately culminated in the London we know today.


Some of the strangest and most interesting screenings available to view, have come courtesy of a collection of educational videos made by the Inner London Education Authority (ILEA) during the late 1960s through to the early 1980s. ILEA would make and broadcast educational programmes for the schools under its authority, and then transmit between 10 am and 7.30 pm to accommodate all school timetables. They used a converted school in Battersea to facilitate studios, rehearsal spaces and post production units, and would involve children and teachers from the inner London schools in the staging, camera work, and performing of the programmes so that they maintained relevance with the target audience. The first transmission took place on 16 September 1969 and the Television Service ran until 1977, when ILEA was forced to re-think its direct broadcasting of the programmes due to rising cable network costs. They continued to produce the programmes but began to distribute them on video cassette, and schools invested in new VHS equipment to facilitate these changes. Those schools within the inner London area were able to buy or rent the films to show in their classrooms, and the videos were also distributed to schools across the country at a higher charge.

Following the disbanding of Greater London Council (GLC) in 1986 the records of the ILEA, along with other council documents and material administered by the GLC, was deposited at The Greater London Records Office (now the LMA), and this collection forms the basis of the archive records still held here. The Battersea studios were eventually bought out by its employees in 1990 and the remaining material produced by the Authority has been deposited alongside the GLC collection at LMA.

Find us on YouTube and start exploring our film collection now.

Oral History

​The written voice of an individual or group can be found in the documents of an archive, but the spoken voice can be found in its oral histories; the memories and stories of people who can remember an historic event, a lost building or a local community. Within our collections are a vast number of these oral histories including those that reminisce about, for instance, life in the Chinese community of Limehouse or the migration of Caribbean nationals to 1960s London. Each are a fascinating reminder of the untold stories of individuals who lived through many decades of London’s history, and who in their own unique way help build a picture of both community and family. The following oral histories are available in the Mediatheque and more will follow.  

What We Remember: Limehouse Chinatown

By 1890 there were two types of Chinese community in the Limehouse area, the first was from Shanghai and settled around Pennyfields, Amoy Place and Ming Street while the second was from Canton and Southern China settling instead around Gill Street and Limehouse Causeway. By 1911 the area of Limehouse and Pennyfields was known as Chinatown. Described by many early 20th century writers as a community known for its gambling, opium dens and being in the shadows, the interviews filmed in this short documentary tell a different story. A story of real lives, shared experience and anecdotal tales of childhood, family, local trade and hardship told by those from the original Chinese community of Limehouse and those who lived around it.

The Peabody Trust

The Peabody Trust has its origins in gifts totalling £500,000 made by an American Citizen, George Peabody, for the benefit of the people of London, the city where he spent much of his adult life. The gift - which became known as the Peabody Donation Fund - was put into the hands of selected trustees who were to ensure that it should be used to 'ameliorate the condition of the poor' of London. The first housing estate was opened at Spitalfields in 1864 and consisted of 57 dwellings and 9 shops, and today, Peabody estates are an established feature of London life.

In these interviews with two staff employed at Peabody Estates across London during the early to mid-20th century, we learn what life was like – the standard of living, the type of resident, the effects of war, the daily management and administration required, and much more.

Black Experience Archive Trust (BEAT)

Forming part of a wider national project, working in partnership with local groups, the Black Experience Archive Trust (BEAT) organised a series of interviews with six ex-mariners to find out what life was like working at sea.