Part of the National Museum of Science and Industry, it is now one of the most popular museums in the UK outside London, with 615,431 visiting in 2005. Entrance to the museum is free (with exception to the IMAX screen and some specialist exhibitions which do charge), allowing anyone from the public to examine the numerous historic artefacts of media history on display.
There are seven permanent exhibitions:
- Kodak Gallery - Covering the rise of Photography from the 1840s until the present day.
- Experience TV - There are over 200 objects from the Museums' collections on display, and plenty of hands-on interactive displays for visitors to have fun with on Television Productions.
- TV Heaven - An opportunity for visitors to select from a catalogue of over 1000 television programmes.
- Magic Factory - The science behind Television.
- Animation - The History of Animation, this area also has a permanent "Animator in Residence" who is involved in the museum's workshops. Profiles Gallery & IMAX Projector Box - Showcasing the Museums' film collection.
- Advertising - Opens in early 2007. Traces the history of advertising and its effects upon society.
The museum's collection contains over three million items of historical, cultural, and social value, including what are considered three 'key firsts' – the first photographic negative, the earliest television footage, the world's first example of moving pictures (Louis Le Prince's 1888 film of Leeds Bridge). It also contains the original toys from the BBC series Playschool – the first programme to appear on BBC2. The museum's collections are fully accessible to the public through its Insight study centre.
The museum incorporates what was the first permanent UK installation of an IMAX cinema (with a second screen opening in the UK some fifteen years later). Opened in 1983 as part of the Bradford Film Festival with the projector visible from a darkened viewing booth of the 4th floor of the museum, this screen runs IMAX presentations seven days a week, with showings including IMAX-rendered prints of commercial blockbusters, including Apollo 13, The Lion King, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and Batman Begins. In 1999, IMAX upgraded the system and began releasing IMAX 3D presentations, including Magnificent Desolation 3D: Walking On The Moon, produced and narrated by Tom Hanks, and Sharks 3D, presented by oceanographer Jean-Michel Cousteau.
The museum also incorporates the Pictureville Cinema - opened in 1992 and described by David Puttnam as 'the best cinema in Britain', Pictureville Cinema screens everything from 70mm to video; from Hollywood to Bollywood; from silent’s to digital sound, with certifications in presentation including THX in sound and picture and the Dolby EX system. This cinema is also one of only three public cinemas in the world permanently equipped to display original 3-strip 35mm Cinerama prints. It is the only permanent, regularly programmed Cinerama installation in the world and a magnet for enthusiasts, worldwide.
The museum hosts three annual film festivals a year: the Bradford Film Festival (held in March), Bite the Mango (in September) and the Bradford Animation Festival (in November). These attract many international speakers and show new and classic works from around the world.