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try something like:
this does solve the problem of placing them individually, but i still do not know how to refer to these movies after they have been placed on the stage. is there a way i can give these movies a name that can be used later in the movie.... outside the onLoad function?
you can use the names you already assigned: (tl["item"+i] where tl is the timeline that contains your code) or you can give them new names
var t = home.attachMovie("item","item"+i,i+1);
but you'll need to reference them using tl["newName"+i], so that's not much of an improvement.
Access the newly attached movie as you would an object.
You're doing this already in the for loop.