Live Theater – A 19th Century Magic Lantern Show:

 

The use of lantern slides goes back at least to the 17th century when Athanasius Kircher presented schemes for projecting images onto a screen.  (Wolfgang Lefèvre (ed.) "Inside the Camera Obscura – Optics and Art under the Spell of the Projected Image", Preprint 333, 2007, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science).  However, by the 19 century they were used as a popular form of entertainment.  The idea “took off” at this time with the development of high-tech illumination sources such as arc and acetylene lamps; limelight and Oxyhydrogen sources made projection over a large area feasible.  (see for example:  “Fleas the Size of Elephants:  The Wonders of the Oxyhydrogen Microscope” by Kentwood D. Wells, The Magic Lantern Society Gazette 29 2/3 2017 pp 3-34 Publish by the Magic Lantern Society of the United States and Canada). 

 

Showman like as Dyonysius Lardner would rent a hall such as Niblo’s Garden in New York shown in the figure on the right.  Lecture on subjects ranging from natural history, astronomy, philosophy to purely entertainment would be presented to an adoring public.  (see for example:  “Dyonysius Lardner:  Popular Science Showman of the 1840s” by Kentwood D. Wells, The Magic Lantern Society Gazette 29 1 2017  pp 3-18 Publish by the Magic Lantern Society of the United States and Canada).

 

The IIAH produced a MSL in the spirit of Dyonysus Lardner.  It is based on our 19th century of mechanical astronomical MLS.  A sample video of a slide similar to the ones in our collection can be found on the Royal Astronomical Society London’s web site (https://www.ras.org.uk/library/treasures-of-the-ras

The first performance at the IIAH meeting on 22 March 2018.  The next performance will be at the EAIA Annual Meeting on Saturday evening 18 May 2018 in Lowell, MA.  Please consult either the EAIA or IIAH websites for more details.