Large Collection of Magic Lantern Slides Features Images of 19th and 20th Century Bradford

The National Science and Media Museum has acquired a large collection of magic lantern slides, formerly part of the lending library of the Riley Brothers of Bradford.  

The collection features images of local people and cityscapes from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, telling a rich visual story of Bradford’s heritage. 

Comprising of 182 magic lantern sets with over 2600 individual slides, the images 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.  

Credit: Science Museum Group

The images show locations from around Bradford including the former banking hall on Hustlergate. Some of exterior images are difficult to identify, and members of the public are encouraged to get in touch with the museum if they recognise any locations.  

Credit: Science Museum Group

Developed in the 17th century, a magic lantern is an early type of projector that uses an artificial light source like a bulb or candle flame to project hand-painted images, transfers, prints or photographs on a glass slide. 

Magic lanterns and magic lantern slides 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.     

Credit: Science Museum Group

The newly acquired collection 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. The museum also holds the vast Kodak Collection, that includes the Riley ‘Kineoptoscope’ projector which converted magic lanterns into motion picture projectors, bringing movies to the theatres of Bradford.  

Credit: Science Museum Group

Commenting on 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.”  

To learn more about the process of bringing the new acquisition into the museum’s collection, please visit:  

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