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The Australian National University

Heritage in the Limelight: the magic lantern in Australia and the world

'In the Hurly-Burly: Limelight Effects in Melbourne'‚ Melbourne War Cry, 28 July 1894, 9

ARC Discovery Project Overview

The spectacular outdoor projections that are currently redefining our urban space have a long heritage in Australia. For instance, for over a century Australia’s visual culture was profoundly shaped by the technology of magic lantern slide projection. From the 1840s to the 1930s this technology permeated theatres, lecture halls, church services, private homes and even open public spaces. It crossed from popular entertainment venues to elite educational institutions, and evolved from beautifully hand-painted slides to high-quality photographic reproductions. Some aspects of the technology were uniquely Australian, while other aspects were closely plugged into global networks of image trade and cultural exchange. Lantern slide performances produced complex multimedia, multi-sensory experiences for their audiences which can now historically inform our understanding of the collective experience of contemporary new media technologies. As well, they left behind large collections of glass slides in a wide variety of institutions large and small. Although neglected until now because they do not fit easily into traditional museum and gallery taxonomies, these slides have the potential to provide an exciting new archival resource for historians, curators and artists. Our Australian Research Council Discovery Project DP160102509) investigates the variety of contexts in which lantern slides were shown and the breadth of the stories told through this media.  

Contact Information

Heritage in the Limelight

School of Art
ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences
The Australian National University
105 Childers Street
Acton ACT 2601
Telephone: +61 2 6125 5815

Updated: 25 October 2016/ Responsible Officer:  Head of Office / Page Contact:  Web Publisher