On November 22, 1963 Dallas clothing manufacturer Abraham Zapruder used his 8mm Bell & Howell film camera to document President John F. Kennedy’s motorcade as it passed through Dealey Plaza. This home movie, now referred to as “The Zapruder Film,” unexpectedly captured the assassination of President Kennedy and subsequently became one of the most analyzed films in history. Though most of us are familiar with this iconic film, we are perhaps less well-acquainted with the historical value of home movies as a genre. As noted by filmmaker and preservationist Martin Scorsese, home movies “do not just capture the important private moments of our family’s lives but they are historical and cultural documents as well.”

Officially celebrated across the world on  October 17th, 2015, this year’s “Home Movie Day,” is an opportunity for individuals, families, and communities to see and share their home movies, to learn about the historical significance of home movies, and find out how to best preserve these valuable artifacts. Though your home movies may not capture nationally historic events, they do document and preserve cultural practices for current and future scholars. They tell us not only what kind of fashion people wore but also how they wore it. They visually preserve architecture and now-demolished skylines.They show us how people from different backgrounds celebrate holidays like birthdays and Thanksgiving. Better than a written account or still photograph, home movies are capable of showing how people actually lived.

For the month of October, the Media Library is celebrating Home Movies with an exhibit of home movie technologies and a home movie compilation curated by Media Arts student and filmmaker Valarie Gold. The compilation will play all month long in our lobby and includes materials from the University of North Texas Special Collections, the Denton Public Library, and The Texas Archive of the Moving Image. Stop by to see how downtown Denton has changed since 1940 and stay to watch former Speaker of the House and Lieutenant Governor of Texas Ben Barnes show off his horseback riding skills in a parade through Denton ca. 1971. Take a look at some groovy dancing at a 1965 quinceanera and a Thanksgiving pinata. Just in time for the Texas State Fair, prepare to be impressed by robotic dinosaurs at the 1936 Centennial celebration. Perhaps you can even help us identify the people and events taking place in “Bank Day” (ca. 1940), donated by the Chamber of Commerce?

If you have any questions or additional information about the home movies you’ve seen in our exhibit or have questions about preserving your own home movies, please contact the Moving Image Preservation Librarian, Laura Treat (laura.treat@unt.edu).

We also encourage you to continue this proud tradition of home movie making and (whether with your smart phone or camera) visually preserve your memories!


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