Share in our discoveries across three projects as we work to provide the first intellectual access to our hidden treasures relating to work and labor in early 20th Century New England, the 1939-1940 New York World's Fair and its period, and Boston local TV news.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Intrigue and Accessibility of Amateur Film and Home Movie Collections

Last week I journeyed to Los Angeles to participate in a workshop organized by Northern Arizona University professor and NHF advisor Janna Jones called The Intrigue and Accessibility of Amateur Film and Home Movie Collections at the Society for Cinema and Media Studies conference. Other presenters on the panel included May Haduong and Lynne Kirste of the Academy Film Archive in Los Angeles, and Snowden Becker of the Center for Home Movies. The workshop was well received and spurred quite a bit of interest afterward by attendees, several of whom are part of the growing community of amateur film scholars at SCMS.

My presentation focused on the activities we are working on for the CLIR/Mellon project including Katrina's catalog work and the Collective Access database in development, as well as a bit of promotion about the inherent social and cultural value in archiving and studying amateur film collections.

Below is a clip I showed from NHF's Palermo Historical Society Collection by amateur filmmaker and [then] future Palermo historian Milton Dowe.
Dowe's films left behind a legacy of his tribe and the surrounding community, but their significance is underscored by an artistic value worthy of recognition. Just as Fine Arts has sub-genres of folk art, naïve art, and recently outsider art, for describing works by Grandma Moses, Henri Rousseau, and Henry Darger, so do amateur works by filmmakers like Milton Dowe belong in a sub-category of Amateur film described by the quality of their technical achievement and the artistic intent of the creator.

The conference turned out to be very enjoyable with a huge variety of panels to take in. I was pleased to see a decent representation of scholarly work on non-theatrical film, but found amateur film studies remain largely marginalized; proving once again that now is an exciting time to be looking at amateur film as there are great opportunities open in its scholarship.


Katrina Dixon, Media Cataloger, Northeast Historic Film said...

I love this "Just Fences" clip --- especially the way Dowe basically says: I am capturing what will not last. Here's to the preservation of these hidden fence treasures! Thank you, Gemma!

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