The University of Western Australia is part of a research team that plans to unearth and analyse the large number of ‘glass magic lantern slides’ held in public collections across the world in a bid to better understand the effect of this early modern media on Australian cultural history.
UWA’s Wesfarmers Chair of Australian History, Professor Jane Lydon, who is Chief Investigator on the project, said slides, consisting of hand-painted images which were shown to audiences on an early type of image projector, date back to the 17th century.
“International studies have recently begun to show that lantern slide shows, presented to the public before motion picture projectors were invented, were a ubiquitous, globalised and formative cultural experience,” Professor Lydon said.
“Our project aims to explore the international reach and diversity of this pre-cinematic visual medium from the Australian perspective, so that we can understand the powerful emotions that it evoked.”
Professor Lydon said she will start work in Oxford University’s Bodleian Library, which holds the papers and slides of the Anti-Slavery Society, an organisation set up in the early 19th century to campaign for abolition.
“Once it achieved success in that area, this same group turned its attention to the effects of colonisation on Indigenous peoples around the world,” she said.
“Research has already shown how important images were within histories of humanitarianism and human rights, particularly the significance of the collective witnessing of atrocity and suffering.
“I’ll look at how missionaries working in Australia and the Pacific drew upon this technology to teach and persuade Indigenous people and to mobilise support from mainstream audiences.”
Professor Lydon and the team will also investigate how Dr Barnado’s London-based orphanage campaigns successfully raised funds in the UK and Australia during the 1890s.
The team which also includes Dr Martyn Jolly, Associate Professor Martin Thomas, Professor Nicolas Peterson and Professor Paul Pickering from the Australian National University and Associate Professor Joe Kember from the University of Exeter.
Whilst in the UK, Professor Lydon will receive a prestigious award for service to photography and anthropology from the Royal Anthropological Institute in London.
Caption: Pacific Missionaries 1, 2, 3, hand painted, glass, magic lantern slide, c1890s. Courtesy Dr Martyn Jolly.
Professor Jane Lydon (UWA Wesfarmers Chair of Australian History) (+61 8) 6488 2131
David Stacey (UWA Media and Public Relations Manager) (+61 8) 6488 3229 / (+61 4) 32 637 716