THOUSANDS of slides depicting life in Bradford in the 19th and 20th centuries have been acquired by the city’s National Science and Media Museum.
The magic lantern slides were part of the lending library of the Riley Brothers of Bradford and include 182 sets with more than 2,600 individual slides.
Telling a “rich visual story of Bradford’s heritage”, the collection features images of local people and cityscapes.
It is now being documented, photographed, treated, rehoused and stored by the museum to add to its extensive collection of magic lanterns and magic lantern slides.
Magic lanterns were developed in the 17th century as an early type of projector. They use an artificial light source like a bulb or candle flame to project hand-painted images, transfers, prints or photographs on a glass slide.
They were commonly used until the mid-20th century as a popular form of entertainment and are a precursor for early film technologies.
The Riley Brothers established their own magic lantern business in Bradford on Godwin Street, selling slides and equipment while manufacturing their own magic lanterns.
The images themselves were produced by posing models, either volunteers or the photographer’s family and friends, alongside props or in real-life landscapes to tell a visual story.
They show locations from around Bradford including the former banking hall on Hustlergate. Some of the exterior images are difficult to identify, and the museum is encouraging people to get in touch if they recognise any locations.
Of the new acquisition, Vanessa Torres, conservator at the National Science and Media Museum said: “Our collections are constantly growing, and new acquisitions can take on many different shapes and sizes.
“When we acquired this large collection of magic lantern slides, it was a truly a cross-department effort to document, conserve, and digitise the objects to ensure that these fascinating images can be accessed and enjoyed by everyone.”
The museum also holds the vast Kodak Collection, which includes the Riley ‘Kineoptoscope’ projector which converted magic lanterns into motion picture projectors, bringing movies to the theatres of Bradford.
To learn more about the process of bringing the new acquisition into the museum’s collection, visit blog.scienceandmediamuseum.org.uk/magic-lantern-slides-collection.
The National Science and Media Museum opened in Bradford in 1983 and has since become one of the most visited UK museums outside London.
It is currently closed to the public until summer 2024 to undergo a transformation.