Hand-coloured photographic song slide, c.1905, Stephen Herbert Collection
Screen heritage, for us, means more than just the cinema or television. As the definition of screen heritage on this site puts it:
Screen heritage begins with the magic lantern in the 17th century and continues through to this day with our online culture.
So we are interested in collecting information on all kinds of the popular and projected image, and in doing so hope to demonstrate how cinema and television are part of a larger historical continuum.
Particularly important in this quest is the magic lantern. Image projection by means of the magic lantern or optical lantern (known in the USA as the stereopticon) has its roots in the seventeenth century, and in the Victorian era the art rose to great heights, with its practitioners using single, double (biunial) or even triple-lens (triunial) lanterns to achieve extraordinarily elaborate effects, while the slide themselves were often beautifully coloured. Magic lantern shows covered travel, drama, comedy, popular song, Bible stories, scientific displays and many other themes, and the slides as well as the lanterns themselves can be found in many museums in the UK. No one knows the extent of such collections, and we hope as part of our survey to begin to map this rich part of our screen heritage, whose modes of presentation had such a great influence upon the early cinema.
Lantern shows continued into the twentieth-century, and have been succeeded by other modes of slide presentation, from the slide viewers which used to show family snaps to (arguably) PowerPoint and the modern data projector.
If your institution has magic lantern slides or equipment, or even later kinds of slide presentation, we’d love you to fill out the survey. If you want to find out more about the magic lantern, the Magic Lantern Society has an informative web site, including a blog with news of upcoming lantern shows and other events in the UK.
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