Papers of Marian Ray

Scope and Content

Film strips (35mm, mix of monochrome and colour), original handpainted artwork, printed booklets with explanatory text to accompany the films, and ephemeral material.

Administrative / Biographical History

Marian Ray (b1923) ran a successful business from the 1940s to early 1980s producing educational film strips for use in schools. She designed and produced most of them herself, and sold them to schools in Britain and abroad, particularly Sweden. Her films were supplied to around 70 countries in total and her accompanying texts were translated into many languages. Ray did not originally envisage her film-strips being used as educational tools in the classroom. She saw them as comparible to lantern slides that would be used as home and social entertainment rather than formal education. The central appeal of her subjects was always primarily aesthetic, and she was pleased whenever viewers appreciated her artwork. However, she quickly realised her potential market and made a highly successful business through supplying schools, local educational authorities, and distribution companies abroad. The Company 'Marian Ray Filmstrips' eventually closed in the early 1980s; with the rise of schools television and use of computers in schools the filmstrips were considered outdated.

Ray began working in the audiovisual area during the Second World War when she worked for the BBC press department under Ken Adams. During the war she also worked as an animation artist making instructional films for military training as well as producing a number of film strips for the London Civil Defence Department at the Home Office. After the war she established her own company providing educational film strips and accompanying booklets to schools and colleges. She began the work from her bedroom and in the beginning did everything herself including the shooting, processing and printing. Eventually her business was so successful that she took on two part time secretarial staff and two part time production assistants to help with the workload. Even with the extra staff she continued to make all the original artwork herself. There were two exceptions to this: "Skeleton and Muscle" and "Mushrooms and Toadstools" which were drawn and designed wholly by other people. The accompanying notes were written by a variety of people, often specialists in that particular field, although she wrote a great deal of them herself. The processing of the film strips was done by Dufaycolour, who were based at Thames Ditton. When they closed the work was transferred to Rank Film Laboratories, based in Denham, West London.

The earliest film strips were in black and white; colour was introduced at a later date. The first colour filmstrip was on Pythagorus' theorem. The first strips to be made by Ray were "Cotton" and "Evolution of the Horse". For "Cotton" she observed cotton seed growing in a pot and used it as her source material, sketching the plant as it grew. There is a series of booklets containing explanatory texts to accompany many of her filmstrips, but notes were not made for the first few films. According to Ray, at this time it was usual for film strips to be bought alone and someone else would be commissioned to write the text later.

Ray's book "See What I Mean - Design and production of individual visual aids" (classmark SA22113) is available for consultation in the library on request. It was intended to assist in the production of visual aids for teaching in schools.


Arranged in two series: Ray's original artwork and associated ephemera including press cuttings are found in the first series, and the film strips form the second series.

Access Information


Open, subject to signature of Reader Application Form. We currently have no means to project the film reels.

Acquisition Information

Donated by Marian Ray in July 2009, additional material donated August 2009

Conditions Governing Use

A reader wishing to publish any quotation of information, including pictorial, derived from any archive material must apply in writing for prior permission from the Archivist or other appropriate person(s) as indicated by the Archivist.

Custodial History

Transferred to the archives from Marian Ray's house in June 2009, with additional material transferred in August 2009.



Related Material

The IOE Library holds 'See what I mean - design and production of individual visual aids', Ray, Marian, Cassell, 1953 (classmark SA22113)