Home Movie Preservation: Westmount Public Library

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What is a Home Movie?

Home movies are amateur films that capture private moments that are not available on commercially produced films. This type of film making usually concerns itself with aspects of family life, such as family reunions, personal vacations, celebrity sightings, and community events. In recent years, amateur film and film making have been celebrated in Home Movie Days. As many people lack the proper equipment and knowledge to view and care for their films, these celebrations have been important means for individuals to re-view and share their family films. Home movie days are also useful resources for individuals to learn how to best care for their films.

“Saving our film heritage should not be limited only to commercially produced films. Home movies do not just capture the important private moments of our family’s lives, but they are historical and cultural documents as well. Consider Abraham Zapruder’s 8mm film that recorded the assassination of President Kennedy or Nickolas Muray’s famously vibrant color footage of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera shot with his 16mm camera. Imagine how different our view of history would be without these precious films.”

— Martin Scorsese [1]

Home Movie Day

A few months ago, I volunteered at Westmount Public Library for their Home Movie Day. In preparation for this, I helped them sort and inspect films that were dropped off for projection. During this Home Movie Clinic, I learned best care practices, how to determine a film’s age, how to detect damage, and how to restore damaged film for projection. It was very interesting to learn about film preservation, and to be able to view these films up close.

Two individuals dropped off their personal collection of films for inspection, both of which were in good condition to be viewed on Home Movie Day. One individual brought a collection of silent, colour 8mm films from the 1930-1940s. These films were passed down from their grandfather, who grew up in Westmount and traveled frequently outside of Canada. The individual remembered watching these films as a child and hearing their grandfather’s stories about all the places depicted in the films. Being able to view these films again at the Westmount Library was very nostalgic for them. The second individual brought a few silent, colour 8mm film from the 1950s that was passed down from their parents. They also projected a silent, black and white 16mm film that they purchased at a flee market. This was likely filmed in the 1920s, and it captured the life of a Westmount family. Being able to see the history of Westmount, and depictions of family leisure, from these intimate and personal collections was a unique learning experience. It also makes me want to host a “home movie day” of my own so my family can share their films. See below for a few clips from the Westmount Public Library Home Movie Day.

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