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.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Scholars Working with Nontheatrical Film

Over September 22-24, the Center for Home Movies held a Digitization and Access Summit at the Library of Congress' Packard Campus of the National Audio-Visual Conservation Center in Culpeper, Virginia. Summit participants, about 40 of us, addressed amateur film and video, cataloging and description, and the impact of online access (they’re thinking a million home movies) on home movie makers, families, researchers, filmmakers, and the public.

Scholars who work with nontheatrical material presented, beginning with Heather Norris Nicholson and Maija Howe, who summarized the University College Cork "Saving Private Reels" program (that conference described by Katrina Dixon below). They noted scholarship using audiovisual materials regarding local and national identity, and the development of conceptual and theoretical language for amateur film and home movies. One example described, ”Children and Amateur Media in Scotland,” is a 2010-2014 project (£584,152 to the University of Glasgow) for work by Karen Lury and Ryan Shand, among others. These two presented in Cork and attended our Work Life presentation, with plans to exchange information going forward.

Dan Streible asked the scholars in Culpeper to review
a film from November 1956 that appears to be documentation of deaths at home with family and community interaction, which raised again questions posed by Norris Nicholson about privacy, footage ethics, and the layering of meaning. In this case, the death footage is from the undocumented FilmCollectief collection on the Internet Archive. Streible suggested that the film “captured the mundane and the uncanny“ in ways that commercial films are not able. We have had discussion with Simona Monizza in the Netherlands and others about documenting provenance. Andrea Leigh, Library of Congress Moving Image Processing Unit Head, was present at the Center for Home Movies gathering and in conversation noted the importance of data structure and content standards for description. We recommend her article in The Moving Image,
Context, Context, Context.

Jackie Stewart asks when teaching amateur film and home movies that the entire work be shown; some students “get it,” some are put off. Home movies are like avant-garde films in often demanding much of their audiences. Stewart also stated--and Northeast Historic Film strongly subscribes to this concept--that films need to stay in dialog with the communities from which they come.

The Center for Home Movies videotaped the gathering and hosts a collaborative discussion site that includes an excellent "Home Movie Scholars Discussion." For more information, contact Dwight Swanson,

Top photo, from left: Pam Wintle, Human Studies Film Archives, Smithsonian Institution (a member of Northeast Historic Film’s board of directors); Heather Norris Nicholson, Manchester Metropolitan University; Jackie Stewart, Northwestern University; Maija Howe, University of New South Wales; Dan Streible, NYU. At lectern, Dwight Swanson, Center for Home Movies (convener), and Rick Prelinger, Internet Archive.
Second photo, Ryan Shand and Karen Lury, from Glasgow, Scotland at University College Cork conference.


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