Archive in the Spotlight

Archive in the Spotlight is an initiative where one of the team investigates a lantern slide series held in a public or personal collection around Australia. This process involves research into the series and, on occasion, an interview with a curator, librarian, or private custodian.

Minstrels, magic lanterns and magicians: the rise and dispersion of American Vaudeville

Research Fellow, Dr Elisa deCourcy recently spent a few weeks at the Harry Ransom Center, a world-class archive of European and American visual and literary culture at the University of Texas, Austin. The Center is currently showing a landmark exhibition about the rise, character and metamorphosis of Vaudeville on the American entertaining landscape. The exhibition draws from 32 different collections across the Ransom Archive. Lead curator, Dr Eric Colleary generously set aside an afternoon to explain the logic of the exhibition and to swap notes about the magic lantern’s place in Vaudeville...

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The ‘acts of courtesy’ shown to a missionary couple at Hermannsburg and Kunmanya missions, recorded in lantern slides

The Monash Indigenous Studies Centre has just received a gift of over a hundred and fifty magic lantern slides and 35mm transparencies. The slides were made by the anthropologist and Presbyterian missionary H. R. (Harry) Balfour (1875-1962) and his wife Katie. Lead CI Martyn Jolly, along with Bronwyn Coupe from the Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, visited Professors Lynette Russell and Ian McNiven at the Centre to look at the slides, which are still in their original boxes. Together, we discovered that the slides were made in Central Australia near Hermannsburg, the...

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A magic lantern trove: Toverlantaarn Museum

Recently, Lead CI Martyn Jolly and colleague David Wills had the rare privilege of visiting Toverlantaarnmuseum Scheveningen in The Hague, owned and operated by Mr Henk Boelmans Kranenburg. To say the Mr Kranenburg’s house is crammed with magic lantern material is an understatement. The ground floor features a magic lantern theatre complete with two triunial lanterns, every horizontal surface is covered with magic lanterns, and every inch of the wall is covered with framed prints relating to magic lantern culture. Hundreds of mechanical slides, and work bench, are house behind the projection...

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Vital data for the Future at the Historic Environment Image Resource Centre, Oxford

It was a great pleasure for Lead CI Martyn Jolly to visit the Historic Environment Image Resource (HEIR) in the Institute of Archaeology at the University of Oxford’s School of Archaeology. The HEIR team (pronounced as in ‘heir to the throne’), Senior Research Fellow Dr Sally Crawford, Institute Archivist Dr Katharina Umschneider, and researcher Dr Janice Kinory, took Martyn through their amazing collection of lantern slides and their on-line database. HEIR is the repository for no-longer-needed magic lantern slides, glass plate negatives, and 35mm slides from across Oxford, donated by places...

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Transmitting images and sound: John Logie Baird’s lantern slides of early television at the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences

The Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences’ (MAAS) stacks are an avenue through Australia’s audio-visual past. Walking along the inner corridor you pass the likes of duplicating cameras, Kodak folding cameras, gramophones, early EMI televisions and primitive early projectors. Many of these objects were collected by one of the institution’s early twentieth century directors, Arthur de Ramon Penfold, who saw part of the role of the museum as a place to demonstrate new technologies. His near thirty-year tenure (1927-1955) at the helm of the museum coincided with the twilight years of the magic...

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From the highlands of New Guinea to the ice floes of Antarctica: the diverse magic lantern slide collections of the State Library of New South Wales

Lead CI, Martyn Jolly and Geoff Barker, Senior Curator, Research and Discovery, Library and Information Services, State Library of New South Wales, spent a fascinating afternoon with the magic lantern slides discovering a diverse range of familiar and not so familiar slides. The Library holds a small set of truly stunning slides which are of absolutely global significance and which, we discovered, are still in beautiful condition. But more of them later, before we got to them we had the opportunity to discover other intriguing collections which await further research. For instance the library...

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‘Farthest South!’ A thrilling illustrated story from one of the first expeditions to the South Pole

A visit to Shaun Higgins, Pictorial Curator at the Auckland War Memorial Museum, revealed many fascinating collections of slides in the Museum. Perhaps the most significant is a lecture compiled by the polar explorer Charles Reginald Ford, which will reward further research. Ford was Scott’s steward on his first polar voyage on the ship The Discovery from 1902 to 1904. This early polar expedition (on which Ernest Shackleton was third in command) was sort of Scott’s ‘Apollo 10’ mission in preparation for the final ‘Apollo 11’ Terra Nova assault on the Pole from 1910 to 1913. Scott died on that...

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Travelling in the national interest: parliamentarians and penguins at the National Archives of Australia

In November 2017 Martyn Jolly and Elisa deCourcy were generously welcomed to the National Archives of Australia to speak with Cheryl Jackson, Assistant Director of Preservation Services and Projects, Caroline Webber, Director of Public Programs, Anne-Marie Conde, Senior Curator, and Anne McLean, Director of Reference Services, about their eclectic collection of lantern slides. Our discussions focussed on slides from the second decade of the twentieth century. We saw sets ranging from that compiled from a British Parliamentary Tour of Australia in 1913 to a set made from amateur and...

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Ways to exhibit original lantern slides in the galleries of the Art Gallery of South Australia

The Art Gallery of South Australia have taken the innovative step of displaying some of their hand-coloured magic lantern slide collection directly in their galleries. Using an electroluminescent panel and conventional matting, four of their slides have been on display as part of an installation dealing with the craze for ferns in the late nineteenth century. Two of the virulently coloured slides feature images by the prominent landscape photographer and lanternist, Nicholas Caire. Julie Robinson, Alice Clanachan and Maria Zagala from Prints, Drawing and Photographs showed Lead CI Martyn...

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Engineering feats and Aboriginal Advocacy in the State Library of Western Australia

It was a pleasure for CIs Jane Lydon and Martyn Jolly to visit conservator Bindy Wilson at the State Library of Western Australia. Together the three of us looked closely at two significant collections of lantern slides from the fourteen collections the Library holds, most of which are available for viewing online. Australia’s Engineering Heritage is documented in a group of slides which, at first glance, look like images of distant galaxies or abstract paintings, but are in fact the interiors of steel water pipes from Western Australia’s famous Goldfields Water Supply Scheme. These slides...

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Updated:  17 November 2017/Responsible Officer:  Head of School/Page Contact:  CASS Marketing & Communications