RCB Library's Magic Lantern' Collection


Fosters Ecumenical Links

Since 2012 and the launch of its Archive of the Month initiative, the RCB Library has been proactive in digitising and promoting lantern slides or magic lanterns'. These slides consist of images from glass plates, where the photographic positive was fixed between two pieces of glass and then projected by using a lamp.

Some 96 magic lantern slides dating from the late 19th and early 20th centuries were recently recovered in a hidden corner' at Mariannella in Rathgar, just around the corner from library. The building is the headquarters of the Redemptorist Order in Ireland and this collection fits into a similar genre as the Church of Ireland ones, and is also of exceptionally good quality.

The contents include scene views in counties Clare and Limerick, and the world travel and educational activities of the order. In the light of the RCB Library's experience, archival staff from the Redemptorist Library visited the library recently, and had their own collection digitised. In conjunction with posting a selection of their images online, the staff have now blogged about how they turned to the archivists in the Representative Church Body Library for help'. A warm acknowledgement of this collaboration and sharing of ideas is posted at this link:

To date, six online exhibits (including the current one for December 2015) have showcased a variety of lantern collections safely lodged in the RCB Library - all of which demonstrate what an important tool they provided for linking the church at home to the wider world of mission. These are permanently available on the links below:

1. Scenes from North India in the late 19th and early 20th centuries:

2. Pictures from a tour in Palestine 100 years ago:
3. Closing in on our Killaloe photographer:

4. More magic lanterns connecting the Church of Ireland and the wider world of mission in the 1930s:

5. Lantern slides from the Boer War and the First World War:

6. More magic lantern slides - an eclectic collection found in Stillorgan parish, Dublin:

With the advent of photography from the mid-19th century, lanterns were in common use - reaching the peak of their popularity about 1900 - and continuing until the 1950s (when they were gradually replaced by 35mm slides). As far as the churches and church organisations were concerned, magic lanterns provided an important medium for clergy, educators and others to spread their message for a variety of charitable and educational purposes.

Clondalkin Round Tower, County Dublin, from the St Patrick's Cathedral lantern slides at the Representative Church Body

The Helter Skelter and Crystal Maze' at the Irish International Exhibition held in Dublin in 1907, from the Killaloe collection at the Representative Church Body Library, so-called as it originated in the deanery at Killaloe

Missionaries in topi with child c.1890 at the Chota Nagpur Mission, Hazaribagh, from the India lantern slides at the Representative Church Body Library