Class Report

playbackthetape: VHS Archaeology for Beginners

Host: Jared Earley
Documentarian: Greg Giles
Location: Furthermore at 52 O Street NW
Date: Feb. 10, 2014

playbackthetape is a lighthearted screening series for armchair archaeologists.

What was the take-home message of the class?
Greg: The low fidelity of VHS carries a certain nostalgia that is completely limited to my childhood and which caused my observations to be loaded with sentiment. Media aesthetics and styles have certainly progressed, but we also saw a few news stories covering the same political controversies we see today. Overall, it was a strange experience that made me feel like life has changed a lot, yet at the same time stayed very much the same.

What was the most surprising thing you learned?
Greg: The Beretta was made into a Matchbox car when it was introduced in order to sort of indoctrinate children. It didn’t work.

What did you learn that you can put in to practice immediately?
Greg: Modern media makes culture durable, but not permanent. As we continue to grow as a society, we should savor the present so we do not carelessly throw away our past.

How did you get interested in this subject?
Jared: Trips down memory lane have always been among our favorite vacation getaways. playbackthetape was birthed from the notion that all of us — growing up in different places, exposed to different content, de facto armchair archivists with every press of the “record” button on our VCRs — could create an entertaining and enlightening communal experience by sharing and reexamining our VHS collections like a T-120 time capsule discovery.

What do people tend to wrongly assume about playbackthetape?
Jared: There are three clarifications we often find ourselves making:
1.) playbackthetape is deliberately lighthearted in tone; however, there’s plenty of room for all perspectives, however deep or shallow you wanna dive in.
2.) We return all submitted entries. But VHS is a fragile medium, so we recommend sending dubs (or allowing us to make one for you) if your submitted content is irreplaceable.
3.) While we might include home movie footage from time to time, our curatorial angle is on content recorded from broadcast television. There are plenty of other great programs out there specifically for home movies — Home Movie Day being among our faves!

How can one get involved or find events? features an events tab with information on all of our upcoming shows as they’re confirmed. We jump around to different venues (in Washington, D.C., and beyond), and are always seeking new content — so whether you want to volunteer, contribute material, or suggest a venue, all the ways to contact us are posted on the website.