For many people, the start of a new year is a good time to sort through piles of unwanted clutter around the house. Sometimes amongst this clutter are the inevitable family heirlooms. These are not always identifiable, particularly if they have been passed down with no explanation.
Magic lantern slides often fall into this category. It may be that an older family member had a lantern and for one reason or another, the slides have become separated. The lantern is disposed of because it takes up space, it doesn’t work or simply because no-one knows what it is!
The slides may be of more interest if they are photos taken by or of family members, or just because they are jolly coloured pictures of fairy stories. But lantern slides really only come to life if they are seen projected through a lantern, as they should be. Tiny details can be appreciated and even effects of degradation can produce startling changes to the images.
More recently I have been projecting slides from the museum collections at various events and viewers are often fascinated by different aspects – the subject matter, the quality of the photographs, the skill (or not!) of the hand tinting. They also enjoy seeing the actual lantern in action and learning that early ones were around during the seventeenth century, and not a Victorian invention as often thought.
So if you would like to unravel some of the mystery surrounding the magic lantern, come along to my ‘Pop-Up Lantern Slide Drop-In’, any time from 12-3pm on Saturday 6 February in the Temporary Exhibition Gallery (by the balcony café). The drop-in is free, other admission charges may apply.
If you have some lantern slides of your own which you have never seen projected, feel free to bring them along and I’ll try to get them up on the big screen! (However please be aware that any slides brought in will be projected at the owner’s risk.)
The Film Galleries at Hove Museum have a permanent display of magic lanterns, slides and a slide show you can watch in the mini cinema.
Admission to Hove Museum is free; see the current opening hours for Hove Museum
Alexia Lazou, Collections Assistant