In a day and age when a moment can be digitally captured and potentially shared with millions of people within mere seconds, what’s the use of old Super 8 and VHS tapes? Practically, not a lot, but Jared Earley, founder of VHS screening series playbackthetape, sees the unique cultural value in such dated technology.
In a unique partnership with the D.C. Public Library and the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, playbackthetape is asking District residents to dig up their old home movies—on Super 8, 8mm, 16mm, VHS, Hi8, VHS-C, and MINI-DV—for Home Movie Day. The free, all-ages event is taking place on Saturday, Oct. 24 at DCPL’s Southwest location and the three organizations are hoping residents will bring their home movies to share with an audience of strangers.
For Earley, Home Movie Day—which is also held in other cities across the country—is less of a nostalgia trip and more of an anthropological fascination. “When we take an archaeological approach to mining home movies and video content, we are reminded of our own recent evolution,” he says, “as humans, as consumers, as observers of our surroundings.”
That’s what he hopes others will find at D.C.’s Home Movie Day celebration.
But how many people are willing to share potentially embarrassing videos from their past in front a group of total strangers? Earley isn’t worried. “A little over 20 people have already notified us that they are bringing content,” he says. “We’re going to be happy if 50 people come out for the day.”
In the event that the plan backfires and not many people bring their home movies, Earley is prepared: He says he’s bringing a few pieces from the playbackthetape archive, and the DCPL and the National Museum of African American History and Culture will have a few pieces from their respective archives. Drop off for the films will begin at 11 a.m., and screenings will start and noon and go until 4:30 p.m. Additionally, professional film and video archivists will be in attendance to teach people how to digitize and preserve their content.
Home Movie Day will take place from noon to 4 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 24 at the D.C. Public Library’s Southwest Branch, 900 Wesley Pl. SW.
Image is a collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. Object ID# 2011.176a. Copyright Donna Chalmers, 1965. Used with permission.