Indiana University

News Release

Monday, May 17, 2010

Last modified: Monday, May 17, 2010

IU to host Magic Lantern Society conference May 20-23

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May 17, 2010

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- America's only "magic lanternist" will be among the performers, scholars, artists and collectors at the 14th annual convention of the Magic Lantern Society of the USA and Canada.

Indiana University Bloomington will host the May 20-23 convention, which is sponsored by the IU Department of English and the Department of Communication and Culture in conjunction with the Magic Lantern Society of the USA and Canada.

The Magic Lantern Society collects, preserves and shares information on the early lantern devices that were invented in 1659 and were used to entertain and educate audiences prior to the advent of film. Lantern slides were hand-painted in vivid colors on glass and projected on walls and cloth screens. By the mid-19th century, black-and-white lantern slides were produced photographically; popular images included travel scenes, dramatic story slides, moral tales, song slides, religious and patriotic themes and comic pictures.

In its 19th-century heyday, there was a lantern in every public institution, and most middle-class households had at least a "toy" lantern. The magic lantern has been referenced by writers such as Charles Dickens and Mary Shelley, as well as revered by pioneers and masters of the cinema screen such as Georges Méliès and Ingmar Bergman.

Because of the scarcity of lantern materials in universities, museums, archives or libraries in the United States, the devices have largely passed out of public memory, but private collectors have ensured that the lanterns are still remembered and celebrated.

Members of the public are invited to attend the free or low-cost public sessions of the Bloomington conference, which includes an exhibit at the Lilly Library, two shows at the Fine Arts Auditorium, a silent film screening with live piano in Whittenberger Auditorium and a "Magic Lantern Spectacular" at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater. Terry Borton, a fourth-generation lanternist and the only professional lanternist in America, will take part in the performances.

"The program is quite exceptional, and its like will probably never be seen in Bloomington again," said Joss Marsh, associate professor of English and a Victorian Studies and Fellow of IU's new Institute for Digital Arts and Humanities.

"We'll have an internationally renowned pianist, America's only professional magic lanternist, performers whose credits include venues like the Royal Opera House in London and a cornucopia of extraordinary, rare, luminous magic lantern images, projected on vintage machines and seen as they were seen in the 19th century," said Marsh. "This will literally be the 'biggest show in town' and worldwide in regard to the projected images and the screen experience."

To register for the conference and to view a complete schedule, see 2010.html.

Magic Lantern public events schedule

Thursday, May 20

Friday, May 21

Saturday, May 22

Sunday, May 23

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530 E. Kirkwood Ave., Suite 201
Bloomington, IN 47408-4003