‘The Historian and the Home Movie’ film – Blog 4


In MACE’s blog this week we take a look at the film ‘The Historian and the Home Movie’ produced for us by Electric Egg.

The 25 minute film has been made available for free as a DVD to subscribers of this month’s History Today magazine in. The DVD can also be made available to academics, researchers, teachers and other educational and research organisations. See the end of this post for details.

This 5 part blog will focus on extracts from the film which highlights some of the material found in MACE’s Heritage Lottery Funded film search project, Full Circle, and explores how home movies and amateur films can be used by academics as important historical ‘documents’.

The Historian and the Home Movie – Clip 4
Historians discuss how home movies can bring another perspective to research

In this clip, MACE’s Director James Patterson, broadcaster & historian Taylor Downing, Krista Cowman, Professor of History at the University of Lincoln and Simon Gunn, Professor of Urban History at the University of Leicester, discuss how home movies can bring another perspective to research and study which complements the written, photographic and professional film record.

James shares his thoughts on how the use of home movies in research and education can enhance other research and study sources: “I never really see this stuff in isolation. It’s not as if this is the only record of what it is we’re looking at, it’s what it brings to enrich everything else we know about it. It’s another perspective. And taken with other kinds of records – the written record, still photographs – if you take the whole thing together then putting home movies into that mix can really enhance the understanding, just to help people’s research or especially in an educational context when we’re working perhaps together in schools. It really helps to engage people and it enriches that understanding in a very particular kind of way, and a way that you can’t get from the more formal record”.

'I never really see this stuff in isolation. It’s not as if this is the only record of what it is we’re looking at, it’s what it brings to enrich everything else we know about it.' – James Patterson – MACE Director

‘I never really see this stuff in isolation. It’s not as if this is the only record of what it is we’re looking at, it’s what it brings to enrich everything else we know about it.’ – James Patterson – MACE Director

Professor Cowman compares the original intention of the recording with the ways it can then be used in research: “On the one level, as with any source, there’s the intent, there’s the purpose behind it to begin with, so ‘we are recording a family celebration, we are showing ourselves as a family, I am filming my wife as she goes about her day to day work, to record her life, to record our family life together,’ but on the other level, by doing that, in a film shot, it’s an instant in time in which everything is captured in a way that a written source cannot capture everything. You can see what the weather’s like, what the house is like, how many cars there are in the street, how many people there are moving about that space on the course of an average day. So it’s a much, much wider source than many written sources. In a way the more examples of them we have the more varied the layers historians can bring to them”.

'…it’s a much, much wider source than many written sources. In a way the more examples of them we have the more varied the layers historians can bring to them'. Prof Krista Cowman on home movies

‘…it’s a much, much wider source than many written sources. In a way the more examples of them we have the more varied the layers historians can bring to them’. Prof Krista Cowman on home movies

Taylor Downing compares the home movie with professional filming and explains why home movies are appealing to him as a documentary producer: “Home Movies are often providing an alternative to the conventional film record of the past. They’re showing you something that most conventional filmmakers never bothered to film, or were never instructed to film. They’re showing you the domestic space, the private lives of the people. They’re also shot in a very different way. Official films, professional film making, is nearly always shot on a tripod from a certain height. Home movies are usually hand held, they’re usually more intimate, they’re usually much closer to the people they’re filming. There’s often interplay between the person being filmed and the person doing the filming. They’re much closer, they’re much more immediate, and I think it’s these strengths that make them really appealing to me as a filmmaker, providing a very different view of the past”.

'They’re much closer, they’re much more immediate, and I think it’s these strengths that make them really appealing to me as a filmmaker, providing a very different view of the past' – Taylor Downing on Home Movies

‘They’re much closer, they’re much more immediate, and I think it’s these strengths that make them really appealing to me as a filmmaker, providing a very different view of the past’ – Taylor Downing on Home Movies

Professor Simon Gunn says, ‘One of the problems I suppose with home movies is that they often tend to look at slightly atypical situations. What historians would really love would be for people just to film every day goings on…people going shopping or how the house is managed over a twelve hour period say, or indeed just the workplace, we have very little film for example of the workplace that’s not really staged. But home movies, perhaps more than any other single source, offer that possibility of a sort of lens on what I call the everyday

'…home movies, perhaps more than any other single source, offer that possibility of a sort of lens on what I call the everyday.' – Prof Simon Gunn on Home

‘…home movies, perhaps more than any other single source, offer that possibility of a sort of lens on what I call the everyday.’ – Prof Simon Gunn on Home

Obtaining a copy of The Historian and the Home Movie for Research

If you are an academic, teacher or researcher and would like a free copy of the DVD, please email info@macearchive.org or telephone 01522 837750. As we only have a small number of DVDs available, please advise us of your profession and the organisation you represent when you contact us.

DVDs are free, although a contribution towards postage would be appreciated. P&P is usually £1.50.

MACE is a registered charity and registered with Just Giving. A donation towards our on-going work would be appreciated. Visit http://www.justgiving.com/mediaarchiveceltd/donate to see our Just Giving page and make a donation.

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