Changing platforms of ritualized memory practices. The cultural dynamics of home movies

This project addresses a number of questions dealing with the complex interrelationship between technology, specific user generations and spaces or places of cultural memory production in home movie making and screening. More concretely we are interested in the question how changing technologies of cultural production (film, video or digital camera) have shaped new practices and rituals of memory staging (screening of the films in domestic of public venues) and thereby initiated processes of (re)negotiating user generations and group identities.

Home movies, often referred to as family films or home videos, are situated at the heart of family memory practices, mostly displayed in the private realm of the domestic space. From the invention of the film camera at the end of the nineteenth century until well into the sixties, amateur film making on 9,5mm, 16mm or 8mm film was predominantly a domestic hobby practiced by middle class men. With the diffusion of the video camera in the 1970s and 1980s, home movies did not only spread more widely, but the context and possibilities of display also changed enormously. Subsequently, the mass dissemination of digital recording technologies in the 1990s and 2000s brought about a true revolution. Home movies have definitely abandoned their niche as domestic family ritual and conquered the public spaces of diverse internet platforms. As a new cultural practice it became part of twentieth century family life. Video portals like You Tube, blogging sites as Twitter or online social networks such as Hyves or Facebook force us to rethink the technological, social and cultural dimensions of traditional and ritualized forms of memory practices. To grasp the technical, social and cultural dimension and historical meaning of this radical change in the making and screening of home movies, this project proposes to systematically investigate the crucial relationship between memory technologies and mediated memory practices in a longue durée perspective.

The changing practices of home movie making and screening have not been studied systematically, from a long-term perspective, yet. As long as home movie practices are associated with nostalgic domestic imagery produced on film, there is the danger of a growing gap in our cultural heritage. The nearly total absence of VHS and, to a lesser extent, digitally recorded material in audiovisual archives and its critical material status (VHS tapes deteriorate much faster than analogue films; the digital standards change continuously) make the historical study of VHS and digital home movie practices a matter of absolute urgency, both from an archival and museological perspective. An increased attention for the pure materiality of the recorded memories both in terms of storage and accessibility is therefore of crucial importance for the project in all its dimensions.

This research project is supported by the Netherlands Institute for Scientific Research (NWO) for the period 2012-2015. It exists a collaboration between Maastricht University, University of Groningen en the University of Luxembourg.

© Home Movies Project







Prof. dr. Andreas Fickers
University of Luxembourg

Dr. Susan Aasman
Rijksuniversiteit Groningen

Dr. Jo Wachelder
Maastricht University

MA Tom Slootweg
Rijksuniversiteit Groningen

MA Tim van der Heijden
Maastricht University



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