Amazing amateurs

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Home movies

Visit landmarks long gone, revel in the fashions and hairstyles of yesteryear or just enjoy a glimpse of ‘what life was like back then’. Home movies are unique cultural documents generally recorded on amateur film gauges, typically 16mm, Standard and Super 8mm, and 9.5mm film. More recently, of course, they appear on myriad tape formats and as digital material.

Why do we collect home movies? People look to us as a centre of excellence when it comes to the moving image. Home/amateur movies needed better representation in the ACMI Collection and this coincided with many donations of this material. Films are catalogued for others to discover but also our knowledge of the subjects in these works allow us to program thematically or by subject – making the unique footage these works contain more accessible. We also hear from the general public and researchers about what their interests are – this allows us insight into how the Collection may be used now and in the future.

Home movies are both personal and cultural treasures. They record life through a unique lens, unencumbered by commercial or political imperatives. Filmed by people intimately connected to the experience and typically edited to emphasise important moments and subjects, these films may contain footage of landmarks long since vanished or shots of lost cultural ceremonies – perfect for researchers and historians, which makes them worth preserving.

Black and white image of family crouching near campfire watching a billy boil

Keeping the master film/tape, as well as digitising, is important to preserving these gems. Stories and information can be extracted from the margins of the film, from the hand-written notes on the box or the journal accompanying them – building the story around the film and its subject. Donors also provide information about the filmmakers – where they worked, the types of equipment they used, their family and friends. These films offer the contemporary viewer an insight into the lives of the filmmakers and a chance to reflect on their own.

Yellow and Green Tram in City of Melbourne, buildings with flags circa 1950s

Making this vast treasure trove accessible allows us to re-examine history from diverse points of view. We have committed to the long-term care and preservation of these collections and as a result of a recent six month digitisation project to make them available online.

Don’t forget to check back as we add to this online archive.