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Magic Lanterns

Image of a magic lantern

The Novium Museum has over 700 magic lanterns slides, as well as a selection of the hardware on which the slides would have been shown.

Magic lanterns were the precursor to modern day projectors and a direct influence on moving motion pictures, developed in the 17th century. Images would be painted, or in later usage printed, onto glass slides and a bright light shone through. This would project the image on the wall. Many of these early lanterns used candles or oil lamps to create the light, but the light was dim and the open flame dangerous. The invention of electricity meant that lanterns were brighter and much safer to use. Magic lanterns were used for a variety of different purposes. Entertainers would travel the country and perform shows with travelling circuses, in theatres and exhibitions. Over time they became more readily available and people began to have shows at home, and they even began using them for teaching and training.

Slides would depict a range of different topics including children's stories, moral tales, pictures of places around the world as well as local images, and even botanical diagrams. The Novium's own collection is very varied, consisting of slides depicting famous landmarks, children's tales such as Mother Hubbard, Aladdin and Cinderella, and fascinating local events.

Image of a magic lantern
Magic lantern slide of a woman puring wine into an amphora
Magic lantern slide of Bracklesham Bay
Magic lantern slide showing a cat in a pram
Magic lantern slide of South Street being drained