Home Movie Day a Smashing Success

Preservation table with examples of degraded film.

Columbia’s Home Movie Day event, hosted by Moving Image Research Collections and the Nickelodeon Theatre this past Saturday, was a great success. Over fifty people attended the screening, MIRC staff answered numerous questions about the proper care and storage of film and video, and there was even an onsite donation of 8mm films to the archive. The Nickelodeon supplied awards and door prizes.

During the morning screening, where guests were welcome to come and go at their leisure, home movies from the MIRC collections were shown. There was an assortment of films from multiple families, shot across the United States and abroad.

The afternoon brought a juried program of local submissions, with the winning film earning preservation in the MIRC vaults. The three jurors, University of South Carolina professor of Film and Media Studies Mark Cooper, PhD candidate in Public History Jen Taylor, and Nickelodeon programming director Janell Rohan selected a home movie depicting the 1962 forced integration of the University of Mississippi for its historical value. SLIS student Jennifer Gunter submitted the footage on behalf of family friends.

The Childers family won the audience favorite award for their submission of the VHS home movie, “Rhubarb Pie,” in which a young man questions his family about their dessert choices, and asks his sibling rather more existential questions such as, “why are you the way you are?” 

Post production specialist Brittany Braddock inspecting 8mm film.

MIRC staff inspected films in the theater lobby and answered questions about home movie preservation. One attendee brought in a small collection of her father’s 8mm home movies and donated the films to MIRC on the spot. The donor says she looks forward to receiving the transfer of the materials that MIRC offers in exchange for donation. A lack of necessary equipment has prevented her from viewing any of the films, at least one of which contains images of her as a child.

A table run by MIRC employees in the nearby Soda City Farmers Market hosted activities for children and informed people about the screenings, drawing in passersby with a sandwich board asking, “What’s Your Edge Code?” Visitors were then encouraged to identify their corresponding edge codes—the symbols on the margins of film that indicate when it was produced—based on their birth year.

Interim Director Heather Heckman demonstrating the use of a cement splicer.

Home Movie Day is popular across the nation because it offers people the opportunity to view and share the footage they have been holding onto, often unseen, for years. The audience filled the theater with laughter and commentary throughout the screenings, lending to the atmosphere the relaxed feeling of watching these films at home with family.

Susan Rathbun-Grubb, an assistant professor in the School of Library and Information Science, was one of the participants who submitted a home movie. “It is hard to explain the sense of wonder you feel when looking at the lives of family members at a time before you were born—seeing them in motion and in color, especially when all you have seen of the time period has been in still, black and white photographs,” Rathbun-Grubb says. “In some ways, Home Movie Day rekindled in me that awe of technology, taking me back in time and giving me that feeling people must have had back in the late 19th and early 20th centuries—as sound and image technologies emerged as mainstream entertainment.”

MIRC would like to thank the Nickelodeon Theatre for their generosity in hosting Home Movie Day and providing the prize packs. The Nickelodeon’s participation was an integral part in the success of this year’s event, and MIRC looks forward to continuing the tradition next year. 

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