Magic lantern slides

Object On display
Photograph by Egmont Contreras

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.

A magic lantern slide performance by Dr Martyn Jolly, whose magic lantern slides are on display in The Story of the Moving Image

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Not in ACMI's collection

On display until

16 February 2031

ACMI: Gallery 1

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Curatorial section

The Story of the Moving Image → Moving Pictures → MI-02. Play and Illusion → MI-02-C01


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