Manchester Time Machine: The North West Film Archive’s new iPhone app

It would be cruel of me to say that I’m surprised to see my own humble university (Manchester Metropolitan University) producing something great and exciting – but that’s kind of how I felt when I got wind of, and finally saw, this new iPhone app.

Produced, as far as I can tell, by MMU, and using clips from the North West Film Archive (“80 unique film clips from the […] collection of over 35,000 items”), the iOS app is free and pretty nicely made.

When you open it, you are presented with a map of Manchester, with pins all over the city. Each pin links to a dated clip. Tap the pin, watch the clip. Simple. On each clip is an optional overlay – a caption with some brief information about the clip. The clips are short, but they’re all contained in the app, so there’s no buffering or problems – it all Just Works.

The idea of the map interface is that you can home in on clips that are nearby – and in some cases, it’s easy to see familiar buildings and really put yourself into the same location. Other clips are of places that have radically changed, so it’s nice to know exactly where they were filmed. As the app’s blurb reads:

Manchester has changed a lot, and hardly at all.

As well as using the map to browse for clips, there’s also a very neat timeline, enabling the user to simply scroll through the years, regardless of location.

All in all, it’s just a really well-made app, and I reckon it’d be of interest to locals and history fans alike. I’m not sure if there are other apps like it – although I’d reckon there are – I’m just proud that not only does it feature the city I love so much, but that it’s come out of my own university. Well done, whoever is behind it. I hope more clips can be added in future.

To download the app, head to the app store on your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch and search for ‘Manchester Time Machine’, or follow this link. Separate iPad and Android versions are reportedly in the works, too.

There is some more information, and some videos of the interface over at this link.


As well as the app, there’s another way to view some of the North West Film Archive’s fascinating clips. Installed over the new year, there is a large screen on MMU’s Mabel Tylecote building, on the corner of Cavendish Street and Oxford Road, opposite All Saints Park.

Erected by Corridor Manchester, the screen aims to display various curated content, but is currently displaying NWF Archive clips of Oxford Road. I didn’t know what to make of the screen initially, but the several times I’ve sat on my bus home at the traffic lights, and a short clip of Oxford Road from some time in the past has emerged on the screen, I’ve grown to love it. I wonder what will be shown on it next?

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