Home Movies

Home Movies

Dennis Duffy
Dennis Duffy

Dennis DuffyArchivist (Retired)

Why did you want to become an archivist?
I’ve always been interested in stories about BC’s pioneer days, ghost towns and so on.  Like ghost towns, archival records are another kind of relic from the past and provide us with windows to look into that past.  My work with archival films and sound recordings gives me a set of especially interesting windows to look through.

How did you become an archivist?
Through my background in audio-visual media.  I was first hired in 1978 as a summer student, to copy sound recordings for preservation.  I later worked as a contractor and my role gradually expanded; I was asked to research, write and edit books, to identify films made in British Columbia and eventually to help the BC Archives acquire and preserve historic films about BC.  Finally, in 1998, I was given the opportunity to join the regular staff of the archives.  (It only took me 20 years!)

What do you do as an archivist?
I still do some work with the sound and film collections.  But I also help to deal with new acquisitions of archival records; with arranging and describing collections of records; with descriptive data and databases; and with many other projects.  Recently, I edited a video production based on old films of soldiers in Victoria and Vancouver, training and preparing to leave BC to fight in the First World War.  The video will be part of an exhibit commemorating the 100th anniversary of that war.

Describe your experience as an amateur filmmaker.
I started making amateur Super 8 films around 1973 as part of a high school film course. My friends and I continued making them after we graduated. In 1983, I made my first 16mm film. I used that experience when I applied to the film school at Simon Fraser University. As a student there I worked on about six student films, including two of my own. I also learned a lot about editing, a skill that I’ve been able to use in editing archival footage in video productions for the museum.

How does your understanding of home movies influence your work as an archivist?
Knowing how and why people made home movies helps me look at them more critically and see how they might be useful to historical researchers. Lately, I’ve been looking at home movies from our collection for potential use in the museum’s upcoming Families exhibition. These films provide a fascinating window into family life during the 20th century.