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Bill Barnes Collection

Reference code: NFA0172

Scope and Contents

Programmes, posters and photographs mainly related to the Poole family's travelling Myriorama show.


  • Creation: 1881 - 2017


Conditions Governing Access

Items are available to view by appointment in the NFCA reading room

Conditions Governing Use

Copies may be supplied or produced at the discretion of National Fairground and Circus Archive, subject to copyright law and condition of the material

Biographical / Historical

William 'Bill' Barnes (1920-2019) was a renowned film historian and collector, who together with his twin brother John (1920-2008), amassed one of the finest collections of early British cinema in the country.

Bill and John became fascinated with cinema from an early age. When they were twelve years old they had a home cine projector and soon after, still in their teen years, they started to make their own films and documentaries. Examples of the titles they created together are Cornish Nets and With the Gypsies in Kent.

Bill and John started to collect cinema material in the 1930s. The brothers served together in the Royal Navy during WWII. At the end of the war, they became specialist booksellers of cinema and pre-cinema material.

The brothers opened the Barnes Museum of Cinematography in St Ives in 1936. John managed the collection while Bill continued to build up the collection visiting fairs, markets and auctions around the country. At this time Bill was working as a Film Production Consultant in London, where he used to visit markets and antique shops. The museum closed in 1986 and the collection was split between the Museo Nazionale del Cinema in Turin and Hove Museum. Eventually, Bill started to run his own stall in Chelsea antiques market selling optical toys, lantern slides and photo cine items. John, who remained in Cornwall all his life, died in 2008. The brothers had always been very close and Bill felt a great loss.

Bill became a leading authority on many aspects of the optical media that preceded cinema and in particular of the early years of cinema itself.

John and Bill wrote extensively on early cinema history, John was known for The Beginnings of Cinema in Britain series and Bill for his articles on The Magic Lantern journal among others.

Bill and John received an honorary doctorate from the University of Stirling in 2006 and the Jean Mitry Prize.


7 Box(es)

Language of Materials






Catalogued according to type

Related Materials

George Williams Collection, Fred Holmes Collection and Birt Acres Collection

In Progress
Arantza Barrutia
13 May 2020
Description rules
International Standard for Archival Description - General
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the National Fairground and Circus Archive Repository

The University of Sheffield
Western Bank
Sheffield South Yorkshire S10 2TN United Kingdom
0114 222 7231