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The Australian National University

Archive in the Spotlight

Archive in the Spotlight is an initiative where one of the team investigates a lantern slide series held in a public or personal collection around Australia. This process involves research into the series and, on occasion, an interview with a curator, librarian, or private custodian. 

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Corsets, Inter-war Australian Femininity and the National Film and Sound Archive's Remarkable Collection of Berlei Lantern Slides

The National Film and Sound Archive holds an extensive lantern slide collection ranging from cinema slides, used in theatre advertising, song slides, employed in public recitals, and some of Australia’s first locally manufactured slides, such as Soldiers of the Cross. Elisa deCourcy spoke with curator, Jenny Gall and paper conservator, Shingo Ishikawa about the processes involved in lantern slide restoration. We also discussed a multi-set collection of Berlei instructional slides that fit rather uniquely in their archive.  In 1910 Fred (Frederick) Berley bought the controlling...

Sydney Camera Circle, Methodist Missionaries and the National Art Archive's Lantern Slide Collection

In December 2016 the supremely knowledgeable Eric Riddler, who is Visual Resources Librarian at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, guided Elisa deCourcy and Martyn Jolly through two significant magic lantern slide collections in the National Art Archive, housed at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. One collection has been in the Gallery for many years, while the other has just recently been acquired.   The first collection came into the Gallery in the mid 1990s as part of a gift from the family of Henri Mallard, a member of the Sydney Camera Circle, who were an elite group of...

The travels of the Macleay (Chau Chak Wing Museum) slides: migration, war and exploration

Elisa deCourcy spoke with curator, Jan Brazier about the breadth and intricacies of the Macleay Collection of lantern slides at Sydney University.  The Macleay Museum opened in 1890 as a repository for the natural history collection of the family whose name it carries. The collecting zeal began with Alexander Macleay (1767-1848) whose array of insect specimens was unmatched in England. He moved to Australia in 1826 to take up the post of Colonial Secretary to New South Wales, where his son and great nephew went onto expand the family’s collection to include all areas of zoology...

The Mathew's Collection at the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS)

A set of important magic lantern slides has recently been catalogued and digitally preserved by AIATSIS. It was fascinating for Elisa deCourcy and Martyn Jolly to discuss where the slides came from with the donor, Mrs Diana Williams, who lives in Canberra, and with David Jeffery, AIATSIS’s Collection Manager (Photographic). Between 1932 and 1939, Wallace H Mathews and his son Arthur G Mathews, a Western Australian missionary at the United Aborigines Missions at Ooldea, Mt Margaret, Warburton and Gnowangerup, made a collection of lantern-slides illustrating mission life. In the decades...

The Salvation Army, lantern slide heritage and The Blind Man of Siolam series

Elisa deCourcy spoke with the Salvation Army’s chief archivist, Lindsay Cox about the Limelight Department and the Army’s rich history of magic lantern productions. Few organisations have been more involved in the early days of the magic lantern phenomenon in Australia than the Salvation Army. Climbing the newly refurbished staircase inside the Army’s headquarters at 69 Bourke Street, Melbourne you would be forgiven for thinking you were simply ascending through the various levels of their administrative and philanthropic centre. But after rounding the banister at level four...

The Malle (sic) Scrub series

Lead CI, Martyn Jolly travelled to the State Library of Victoria to examine The Malle (sic) Scrub, a true story of three children who were lost in the Australian bush series with Research Librarian, Susan Long.  Few stories gripped the popular colonial imagination more than that of the ‘Duff Children’, Jane and Isaac Cooper and their younger brother Frank Duff, who got themselves lost in the Victorian bush in 1864. After nine days they were rescued on the brink of death when Aboriginal trackers led search parties to them. Besides being widely reported in the press...

Thomas Baines' (incomplete) exploratory series

The Project’s Research Fellow, Elisa deCourcy spoke with Nat Williams, Treasures Curator at the National Library of Australia about a curiously incomplete collection of lantern slides created by the British artist and explorer (John) Thomas Baines. The glass lantern slides, hand-coloured photographic copies and adaptations of Baines’s paintings, have been mounted in thick wooden frames. Thomas Baines was born Norfolk, England in 1820 into a middle class home. His father worked as a master mariner, but both his maternal grandfather and father had a keen interest in painting and...

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