Why do archives collect and preserve old home movies? Film archivists and historians have long appreciated home movies as records of everyday life. Most were made by amateur cinematographers and viewed by families and friends in small groups. Few were copied, making most of them one-of-a-kind. They show us how families – famous and unknown – lived, traveled and changed over time. The best-known family represented in home movies in the Ohio Historical Society’s collection is that of popular western author Zane Grey (1872-1939). Black-and-white silent footage depicts Grey, his wife Dolly and their children, Romer, Loren and Betty, with friends at their home in Altadena, Calif., in the 1930s. A less-well-known family recorded on film in the society’s collection is the Hutchins family of Columbus, Ohio. A series of films dating from 1928 to 1951 shows their sons, Edward and James, growing from boys to men and also includes footage of their hometown.
Many Depict Travels Other home movies in our collection illustrate family travels. One 8-mm color film documents the family of Ali Elgabri, a former Ohio State University professor, traveling in Egypt in 1979. Footage includes views of the Pyramids and Sphinx, the family riding camels, boats possibly on the Nile River and a wedding. A film from the collection of Helen M. Hansen, a historian from Sandusky, follows her family on a trip to Washington, D.C., where they took in familiar sites like the National Mall, the White House and Mount Vernon. In a collection received from Walter M. Lauffer, a photographer for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, are films of trips to Florida and Glacier National Park in Montana. Content in home movies can capture more than domestic scenes. One 8-mm color film from the collection of Erwin C. Hostettler, former adjutant general of Ohio, depicts an Ohio National Guard encampment circa 1935. Footage includes officers; soldiers drilling with rifles, pitching tents and milling about in camp; an informal boxing match; and the U.S. flag flying high.
Get Out Your Old Home Movies Because the equipment used to show home movies is no longer easily available, many vintage home movies are in storage. Have old home movies that you’d like to see on the big screen? Our second annual Home Movie Day is Saturday, Oct. 16, 2010, at the Ohio Historical Center at I-71 and 17th Ave. in Columbus. See films from the Ohio Historical Society archives or bring your own 8-mm or 16-mm films to be inspected by archivists, then played on working projectors. Films will be shown from 10 a.m.-12:30 p.m. and 1-4 p.m. Participation is free with Ohio Historical Center museum admission. To accommodate as many films as possible, we’ll be checking-in films prior to Home Movie Day so they can be ready to go on Saturday, Oct. 16. You can drop off films at the Ohio Historical Center on Thursday, Oct. 14, from 4-7 p.m. or Friday, Oct. 15, from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Films will be screened on Saturday, Oct. 16, in the order received. Not in the Columbus area? You may also bring your film with you on Saturday, Oct. 16. The Center for Home Movies launched Home Movie Day in 2003 to help people play and enjoy home movies, and it’s been held every year since, with more and more locations participating. The Ohio Historical Society’s first Home Movie Day was held in 2009. Questions about Home Movie Day at the Ohio Historical Center? Call 614.297.2535 or e-mail [email protected].