Cinémathèque québécoise (established 1963 as the Cinémathèque canadienne) was founded by a group of film producers and cinéphiles led by Guy L. Coté to conserve films (along with related materials such as equipment, posters and photographs) and to make this material available for educative purposes. A film archive was created, screenings were held in halls in Montréal, and the new institution was soon admitted to the International Federation of Film Archives (FIAF). In 1967, it arranged two projects for EXPO 67: a retrospective on Canadian cinema, and another on film animation.
In 1971 the Cinémathèque was renamed Cinémathèque québécoise, at which time it narrowed its focus to films made in Québec. (The NATIONAL ARCHIVES OF CANADA has the official mandate to preserve audiovisual productions by Canadians and the Government of Canada.) However, the 1975 Loi sur le Cinéma (Cinema Act) failed to grant Cinémathèque québécoise the mandate and the funding base to act as the official agency of preservation for the province. Under Robert Daudelin, who had been appointed director of the Cinémathèque in 1971, a campaign was launched to fight for that status. The Act was amended in 1978, giving the Cinémathèque the mandate and funding it required. Its institutional status was strengthened in the 1980s when its administrative and archival services, along with spaces for projection and exhibition, were brought together in one building. In the 1990s, to accommodate the rapid growth in its collection of films and related materials, it extended its conservation facilities. In 1997, it moved into new quarters with facilities to screen films, videos and television programs and to receive various exhibitions on these subjects. From that time on, the Cinémathèque has been an important museum of moving images.
Television was now an integral part of its mandate. But this development brought financial difficulties that soon required it to slow down the pace of its activities, notwithstanding its expanding collections. In 2002, Robert Daudelin retired after 30 years of service, and was succeeded for 2 years by Robert Boivin. Still maintaining the organization's general course of action, Boivin favoured catching up on cataloguing the collections and improving their accessibility. In 2005, Yolande Racine acceded to the position of executive director and took on the mandate of consolidating the organization. She saw to the reinstatement of public projections, exhibits and Internet broadcasting, as well as the creation of a foundation. In 2006, the Québec government conferred on the organization the mandate for the preservation and management of legal deposits, and Québec became the first province to establish such a measure for the preservation of its cinematographic and television heritage.
The film library now holds films, videos, television broadcasts and related materials from all countries and periods. Still, Québec and animated films have pride of place. Its collections include 48 000 films, 29 300 posters, 600 000 photographs and 14 500 scripts as well as extensive archives, costumes, equipment and soundtracks. Its library on films and television is one of the most important in the world with more than 46 000 books (mostly in French and English), over 100 000 newspaper clippings and 450 current periodicals. The Québec Film Library is one of the country's major cultural institutions.