As we enter the last and darkest month of 2020, we see the rise of COVID-19 in most communities across the United States. With that we are also facing the prospect of smaller gatherings for the holiday season, away from family and friends. This is a good time to look through old recordings and share them with your family. Earlier this year, we found a handful of audiocassettes at my spouse’s family cabin. They were recordings from a past Christmas, his great-grandmother playing the piano, and his aunt as a child pretending to be a DJ. Not only was I curious about the content of the audiocassettes, I knew that we had to migrate the tapes soon. So we are in the process of transferring them and making CD copies to share with the family.

Family Audio Recordings

This is just one example of how we could use our personal media collections as a way to stay connected to loved ones. Film-makers, cultural heritage institutions and cultural anthropologists have recognized amateur media practices as an important way to represent, view and interpret culture.

For more information regarding this study, you can start with the following journal articles found in the MSU Libraries’ catalog:

Amateur Film Reels

Amateur filmmaking : the home movie, the archive, the web / edited by Laura Rascaroli, Barry Monahan, Gwenda Young.

Mining the home movie [electronic resource] : excavations in histories and memories / edited by Karen L. Ishizuka and Patricia R. Zimmermann.

Cuevas, Efrén (2013) Home movies as personal archives in autobiographical documentaries, Studies in Documentary Film, 7:1, 17-2.

Aasman, Susan (2013) How to keep our memories safe: ‘Changing platforms of ritualized memory practices. The cultural dynamics of home movies’ project, 2012–2015. 11:2, 183-186.                            

There are a few American institutions which are good resources for better understanding the importance and proliferation of amateur media practices. This is not a complete list, but merely a good starting point.

The Home Movie Registry:

“The Home Movie Registry is an online portal that aggregates the catalog records and digitized files of amateur film and video in one central location. The Registry is a curated search engine for amateur films. It doesn’t replace the efforts of film archives and their online presence but is a new way to show researchers and site visitors the home movies these collecting institutions have.” 

Center for Home Movies:

“The purpose of the Center for Home Movies (CHM) is to collect, preserve, provide access to, and promote understanding of home movies and amateur motion pictures.”

South Side Home Movies Project:

“The South Side Home Movie Project (SSHMP) collects, preserves, digitizes, researches and screens home movies made by residents of Chicago’s South Side neighborhoods.”