Magic lantern slides

Film
Photograph by Egmont Contreras, ACMI

Magic lantern slides are as varied as they are enchanting. While early slides featured line etchings on glass plates, lanternists were soon hand-painting them to give projections vibrancy and depth.

In the 1820s, copperplate printing processes allowed an image to be stamped on glass. This led to mass slide production from the mid-1800s to the 1920s – particularly of toy slides, which were printed with decals and bordered with colourful edges to protect children’s hands.

The arrival of photography in the 1840s advanced things: photos printed on glass brought real-life scenes to life. But technology didn’t diminish the craftsmanship of lanternists, who still retouched worn slides by hand.

Video via Victoria & Albert Museum

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Australian Centre for the Moving Image

1 September 2021

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Space, sci-fi and cinema fakes

Magic lantern slides were used to entertain and educate audiences in home, theatres and universities. While performers told jokes and fairytales, travelling showmen unveiled exotic locations and scientists revealed the latest discoveries.

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