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University Libraries - MIRC Home Movie Collecting

Home Movie Collections at MIRC

MIRC currently houses dozens of home movie collections in its vaults. Interested in donating your home movies? Read the information below to learn about our collecting policy and what donation means for you. 

MIRC’s Home Movie Collecting Policy

Sandy Island resident fanning rice. From the Anna and Archer Huntington Home Movies CollectionHome movies constitute MIRC’s most rapidly expanding collections area. In light of the very high demand to place home movies at MIRC, the highest collecting priority is given to home movies that are related to the state of South Carolina and the surrounding region, through location or subject. Materials documenting minority or underrepresented Southeastern communities are sought particularly.

Home movies that document other regions of the globe may be declined or referred to other repositories. If MIRC chooses to accept materials documenting other regions, it will make a reasonable effort to share the donated content with relevant regional libraries and archives.

If you would like to donate your family’s home movie collection, please make an appointment with Curator Lydia Pappas. Ms. Pappas will decide whether to acquire your collection based upon contextual information about your family, any identifying information on the films themselves, and a scan of ONE reel. You may choose which reel we scan. 

When submitting a reel for evaluation, you will be asked to sign a release that allows MIRC to publicly screen the digital transfer at our annual Home Movie Day event, whether the collection is accepted or not. Any film transferred and evaluated before September 15th will be eligible for inclusion in that year’s event in October. Films transferred on or after September 16th may be included in the following year’s program.

If we DO NOT choose to acquire the collection, we will provide you with a free digital copy of that ONE reel when we return your films. 

If we DO choose to accept the collection into MIRC’s holdings, we may provide you with up to TWO free digital copies of up to TEN reels. Digital copies may be provided as computer files or on DVD or Blu-Ray disc. If the donation is accepted, MIRC will provide digital access to the materials. The terms of this access will be outlined at the time of donation.

At this time, MIRC will only accept home movies in the original film format. MIRC is not currently collecting home movies on video or born digital formats, even if they were initially shot on film and subsequently copied to another medium.

To donate the collection, you must possess the copyright and gift it to the University along with the physical materials. All home movies donated to MIRC may be made publicly available online.

To learn more about home movie donation, contact MIRC Assistant Director and Regional Film Curator Lydia Pappas.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the value of home movie collections?

Home movies are primary sources, and are valuable records of our cultural history. As such, they are often of interest to historians, researchers, documentarians, and other media makers. 

John Sherrer, Director of Cultural Resources at Historic Columbia, helps to explain some of the worth in these amateur films: “Perhaps novel in a contemporary world in which each day is effortlessly chronicled on Facebook, Vine and other apps, home movies historically were prized for their importance in documenting events, people and places in ways that still photography could not. For historians, home movies also offer unique coverage that conveys the energy behind the eras in which they are recorded. While not necessarily as universally important as say the famous Zapruder filming of JFK’s assassination, home movies nonetheless capture moments in time in ways personal and often profound.”

Why should I donate my family’s home movies?

Because home movies can be historically significant, placing them in the care of trained professionals will help keep them safe and make them available. MIRC will perform basic conservation on the films if necessary, and store them in climate controlled vaults. This will extend the life of the original elements by up to a few hundred years. Since the original elements can be easily damaged, digital transfers of the films can be made available, meaning the content is viewable without risking the films themselves. Donating them to an archive also means that those who would find their content valuable can access them.

What does signing over the copyright mean for my films?

By gifting the copyright to the University, the collection will be open to researchers, historians, filmmakers, etc. MIRC will have the right to provide free online access to the films, include them in special programming, provide copies to interested parties, and potentially license the films for commercial use. Such licensing revenues help to offset the substantial costs associated with preservation and digitization. Most importantly, granting copyright to USC allows us to make your films open, unrestricted, and accessible. As a collection in MIRC’s archival holdings, your personal or family history will be a useful primary source and part of a larger historical record.

MIRC and

Home Movie Day

Every year, MIRC and the Nickelodeon Theatre host Columbia’s Home Movie Day event. MIRC shows films from its collections and invites the public to submit and see their own home movies on the big screen. Read more about this year’s Home Movie Day.

 Home Movie Day is a worldwide celebration of amateur films and filmmaking, held annually in October. The event provides an opportunity for attendees to bring in their movies for inspection, learn how to care for films and videotapes, discuss how home movies capture history, and watch films from their local community. Popular across the globe, Home Movie Day offers people the opportunity to view and share the footage they have been holding onto, often unseen, for years. 

MIRC accepts up to five submissions in 16mm, 8mm, or Super 8mm formats from the public by the end of the first week in October. Submitting for Home Movie Day can be separate from the donation process. You will receive one digital transfer of your submitted film, but your submission does not need to be linked to a donation (as an evaluation reel) unless you would like it to be. This is the single occasion every year that MIRC will provide a free transfer of a film that is not being evaluated for potential donation. If you are also interested in donating a full collection at the same time, that is certainly welcome. Your home movie will be screened as part of a program of local submissions on Home Movie Day, later in October.

You can learn more about the history and goals of Home Movie Day from The Center for Home Movies.