A still from the video How to See Home Movies, 2020

The root of the word “amateur” is love.

During the spring and summer of 2019, curators in MoMA’s Department of Film screened hundreds of hours of amateur footage that had been acquired by the Museum over the last 85 years—films ranging from Salvador Dalí’s vacations in Spain to countless hours of families whose names have often been lost, capturing the intimate moments that mattered to them.

All of this was in preparation for Private Lives Public Spaces, the Museum’s first exhibition devoted to home movies as a cinematic art form. “For me, home movies really were a revelation,” recounts film curator Ron Magliozzi. “The largest body of moving-image work created in the 20th century is home movies.” Home movies offer an unfiltered window onto history, telling important stories of the century that didn’t pass through film studios, news companies, or advertising.

“Home movies function as time machines into the past,” muses curatorial assistant Brittany Shaw. “It’s what the past looks like to us...or the idea of the past. When I think of this time, it’s how I think of the colors, those bright reds and blues....” “And that’s the aesthetic we were talking about,” continues Magliozzi. “That’s the connection to modernism...the fact that the color is of a certain period, the way it might be in a painting.”

Now, in this difficult moment when we’re all stuck inside, often separated from our loved ones, it’s an opportune time to revisit our own home movies, and the moments that we and our parents and grandparents shared together and chose to capture.

To learn more, and to see some of these restored home movies in their entirety, visit Virtual Views: Home Movies.