COMMUNITY CORNER: Taste the magic world of slides at Burnaby Village Museum

This lantern slide image features a threshing machine in Manitoba.  - Courtesy Burnaby Village Museum
This lantern slide image features a threshing machine in Manitoba.
— image credit: Courtesy Burnaby Village Museum

It’s magic.

Imagine a world where a slide show could attract a large audience.

From the 1700s until the early 1900s, “magic lantern shows” were a popular form of entertainment.  Images were painted on glass and shown using a projector lit by candle, gas or limelight. By 1850, photographs could be printed onto glass, and hand-tinted to add colour. The slides were presented by a travelling lecturer, whose performance was part of the show’s appeal.

By the 1890s, the Canadian Pacific Railway had developed a set of lantern slides showing Canada from coast to coast, in an effort to increase the number of visitors and immigrants. The CPR images present an idealized vision of Canada, featuring beautiful scenery and recreational activities. Farmers would have been impressed with images showing up-to-date equipment and land that appeared to stretch into infinity. No prairie winter scenes seem to have been used.

A selection of the CPR images have been scanned and printed by artist Michael Lawlor, and are currently on display at the Stride Studios gallery at the Burnaby Village Museum, along with projectors and slides from his private collection.

Lawlor is offering a magic lantern slide performance on June 8 at 7 p.m. at the Bob Prittie Library. The event is free-of-charge, and was organized by the Burnaby Historical Society in partnership with the Burnaby Village Museum, Burnaby Public Library and the Burnaby NewsLeader.

The CPR Magic Lantern Slides, 1885-1930 exhibit is curated by Michael Lawlor and Bill Jeffries and circulated by the Simon Fraser University Gallery. It is on display at the Burnaby Village Museum until Sept. 5. The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday, from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Admission is free, in celebration of the museum’s 40th anniversary.

• Lisa Codd is curator of the Burnaby Village Museum. Reach her at 604-297-4542, or by email at lisa.codd@burnaby.ca. Visit the museum’s website at www.burnabyvillagemuseum.ca.

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