The Great Migration is a unique digitization service program that partners the National Museum of African American History and Culture with individuals and organizations across the United States to preserve their important analog audiovisual media.

This initiative invites participants to schedule an appointment with the museum's audiovisual conservation team in order to digitize the public's home movies in the Robert F. Smith Explore Your Family History Center on the second floor of the museum. Media conservators will facilitate free digitization of motion picture film (16mm, Super 8, and Regular 8mm), obsolete videotape formats (Hi-8/8mm, MiniDV, 3/4" U-matic, VHS, Betacam, 1" open reel video, and 1/2" open reel video) and various audio formats. 

Our standard museum license agreement gives the museum the ability to share your home movies on our website, include them in our Great Migration Home Movie Project Finding Aid and include them in museum exhibitions. A signed license agreement is not necessary for your items to be digitized. We will review this agreement with you and answer any questions you may have at your appointment.

Preservation and access are at the heart of this initiative, which has been made possible thanks to the generosity of Robert F. Smith, and that of Earl W. and Amanda Stafford. These donations support media conservation, digitization, and dissemination efforts for African American media art and the public's family histories. 

For more information, or to make an appointment, please contact us at:

Image displaying various motion picutre film gauges.
A visual aide for identifying various film gauges (35mm, 16mm, 8mm, Super 8).
Image displaying example artifacts of various videotape formats.
A visual aide for identifying various videotape formats (U-Matic, MiniDV, VHS, DigiBeta, Betacam, Hi-8).
Image displaying example artifacts of various audio formats.
A visual aide for identifying various audio formats (Grooved Disc, DAT, CD-ROM, Audio Cassette, Reel-to-Reel Audiotape)

In addition to the Great Migration, the National Museum of African American History & Culture has collected and preserved a number of African American home movies; from both known and unknown families. While major motion picture film and television historically lacked diverse representation, black history was instinctively being preserved in everyday home movies. Today, these personal narratives serve as an invaluable tool for understanding and re-framing black moving image history, and provide a much needed visualization of African American history and culture. Just as the museum explores what it means to be an American and share how American values like resiliency, optimism, and spirituality are reflected in African American history and culture; these films are a moving image record of these values in practice. In our home movie collections, we see the resiliency of civil rights activists in 1963 in Danville, VA, the optimism and drive of empowered youth in the Bedford-Stuyvesant community of Brooklyn, New York during the 1960's, and the rooted spirituality of black Oklahomans in the face of race riots and segregation in 1920's Tulsa, Oklahoma. Explore some of our collection at NMAAHC Collections Search or view selections from the Great Migration Home Movie Project.

Compilation reel of 16 mm home movies filmed by Cab Calloway during a tour of South America, with both Kodachrome and black and white film edge codes indicating a years of 1950 and 1955. NMAAHC Object ID # 2015.

Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Gift of Cabella Calloway Langsam
Photo of two female fencers in action on playground blacktop with 4 fellow fencers looking on at the match.
Still frame depicting the 1965 Brooklyn Olympics, from: Bedford-Stuyvesant Youth In Action, 16mm, Color, Gift of Pearl Bowser
Photo showing Cab Calloway on stage with both hands up in the air with his band, including a base player, drummer, trumpet player, and two saxophonists playing behind him.
Cab Calloway in Haiti home movie, 16mm, Color, Gift of Cabella Calloway Langsam, ©️ Cabella Calloway Langsam
A teacher standing in a classroom with 5 of her students
Still from J.Max Bond Sr. Home Movie #2, 16mm, Black & White, Gift from the Family of George C. Bond, ©️ Alison Bond
The past is of value only as it aids in understanding the present... Isabel Wilkerson The Warmth of Other Suns

Leigh Family Home Movies

This home movie footage includes Wilhelmina Leigh’s 1966 graduation from McKinley Technical High School in Washington, DC; visits with friends in Roxbury, MA; a family trip to upstate New York and Cornell University during Wilhelmina’s freshman year in college, and scenes from their family home in northwest Washington. NMAAHC Study Collection: SC_0001_20171213_Leigh_R8 (TRT: 7:12)

Wilhelmina Leigh Family about Leigh Family Home Movies

This 16mm film is from a collection of home movies shot by J. Max Bond Sr. between 1930-1960. The collection features travel footage, family outings, and gatherings with family and friends. NMAAHC Object ID # 2016.16.1.1a

Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Gift from the Family of George Clement Bond
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