In the Victorian era, magic lantern slides were used for many purposes, including education. Long before TV, radio and cinema were invented, if you wanted to broaden your horizons, you could attend an evening slide show at your local town or village hall to see photographs of places that you would never have the opportunity to visit. If, though, you just wanted a night out and a bit of fun, you’d have gone to the pub or the music hall!
So, for those who sought self-improvement and the better life that would inevitably follow, professional speakers offered lectures on many subjects, illustrated by lantern slides. Sometimes they would operate the lantern themselves but, usually, they would address the audience whilst a lanternist would work the projector. This required considerable skill, dexterity and know-how, as I will explain in a future post.
Lecture topics were very wide ranging and could be scientific in nature, perhaps on electricity or astronomy, or life in other lands or the wonders of the world.
I have in my collection a set of lecture slides of Ireland which date from the 1880s. Each slide is hand tinted and has a printed label on the edge with the location. Whilst slides of Ireland aren’t uncommon, most that have survived are of scenery that is the same today as when the photo was taken, so have no social history content. This set though, has some lovely images of Dublin and named towns and villages and even the few scenic photos have (deliberately placed) people in them to give the slide more interest.
Many of the lectures must have been incredibly boring, even by Victorian standards, as the scripts are very long and tedious and each slide could have been shown for several minutes whilst the lecturer droned on about the subject matter, using more adjectives per sentence than we use in a paragraph.
The person who prepared this lecture clearly recognised that a picture is worth a thousand words. They have gone to some trouble to make each slide interesting and the hand tinting is better than most, which would have brought the scenes to life for the audience. This would have been an expensive set to make and to purchase.
The images shown are the Giant’s Causeway, Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge and George Street in Limerick.