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CO.LABORATIONS | Partnerships in Media and Culture


A Million Pictures: Magic Lantern Slide Heritage as Artefacts in the Common European History of Learning

The magic lantern was the most important visual entertainment and means of instruction across nineteenth‐century Europe. However, despite its pervasiveness across multiple scientific, educational and popular contexts, magic lantern slides remain under‐researched. Although many libraries and museums across Europe hold tens of thousands of lantern slides in their collections, a lack of standards for documentation and preservation limits the impact of existing initiatives, hinders the recognition of the object’s heritage value and potential exploitation. A Million Pictures addresses the sustainable preservation of this massive, untapped heritage resource.

One of the concrete questions of this project was how today this old and often forgotten cultural heritage can be (re)used. Students from the HKU University of the Arts Utrecht worked on creative reuse of magic lantern visual heritage from the EYE Filmmuseum in Amsterdam, The University Museum in Utrecht, and Museum Sonnenborgh in Utrecht. The project was ewxploratory and left a lot of room for the studentes to come up with their own views. From this collaboration two projects were realized:

The installation “Assepoester – twee kanten van een verhaal” (Cinderella – Two sides of a story) and the animation movie “Slide of Life”.

“Cinderella – Two sides of a story” builds upon the magic of narrating stories with the aid of light. Depending on the chosen color, spectators get to see and hear the red or the blue version of the story. See this documentary (Dutch with English subs): https://vimeo.com/219517030.


The second group made an animation movie that spawned life into the original still images. See: https://www.instagram.com/slide_of_life/.

Both projects were first shown during the Showcase InterMedia in Utrecht (https://www.hku.nl/Opleidingen/Media/OverHKUMedia1/ShowcaseInterMediaJuni2017.htm) and will also be shown at the conference “A Million Pictures: History, Archiving, and Creative Re-use of Educational Magic Lantern Slides” (29 Augustus 2017 – 1 September 2017).

The collaboration was supervised by Sarah Dellmann, PostDoc at Utrecht University’s Dep. of Media and Culture Studies.



A Million Pictures is a collaborative research project between researchers from Utrecht University (NL), University of Exeter (UK), University of Antwerp (BE), University of Girona (ES), University of Salamanca (ES) as well as twenty Associated Partners.

A Million Pictures runs from June 2015 until May 2018.

More information about past and present activities are available on the project website: http://www.uu.nl/a‐million‐pictures.