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.

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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Generating civic memory and civic pride in 1920s Adelaide

The Adelaide City Archives is about half way through a project of putting their collection of almost two thousand magic lantern slides online. As archivists Rob Thornton and Jane Ratcliff explained to Lead CI Martyn Jolly when he visited, a keen Town Clerk, Alec Morrison began to assemble the collection in the 1920s. We are all familiar with today’s municipal ‘memory markers’, where old street views are engraved on monuments and signs to give current residents a sense of the history of their city. Morrison was a pioneer of this use of photography to create a sense of municipal belonging. As...

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Boa Constrictors Before Dinner on a Wednesday: Science in the Limelight at the Australian Museum

The Australian Museum in Sydney is the country’s first museum and is celebrating 190 years of collecting and exhibiting in 2017. At the end of July, the project’s Research Fellow, Elisa deCourcy, was lucky enough to get a preview of the Australian Museum’s 20,000 plus lantern slide collection with Vanessa Finney, Head, Archives, Rare Books and Library Collections. The slides are housed in the stores of the institution, many in lovely hardwood filing cabinets, watched over by resplendent taxidermied birds in glass vitrines. There is a palpable sense of the past about this archive. Photographic...

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Ned Kelly, lantern slides and the genesis of “right-click” image-sharing culture

Enter the words ‘Ned Kelly’ into Google image search and you’ll be met with an array of images: nineteenth century photographs of the bearded man himself, woodcut illustrations from 1880 newspapers of Ned in his armour, images of Mick Jagger and Heath Ledger acting in their respective Kelly films, and kitsch souvenirs. If you visit the National Museum of Australia’s excellent online catalogue and search for a set of 77 Ned Kelly magic lantern slides, which were purchased as part of group of 146 slides in the early 2000s, you will return a not dissimilar grid of images. You won’t find Mick or...

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'A Universe in a box': The Expansive Lantern Slide Collection of Museums Victoria

Recently, Lead CI, Martyn Jolly spent an informative morning at Museums Victoria with Lorenzo Iozzi, Senior Collection Manager of Images for History and Technology. Of all the collecting institutions in Australia Museums Victoria is the furthest advanced in making its magic lantern collections available for research and engagement. They have over 11,000 slides in their History and Technology collection, 3,000 slides in their Natural Sciences collection, and 1,500 slides in their Indigenous Cultures collection. Their slide collections not only include thousands of regular square glass slides,...

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