Thursday, September 11, 2014

Magic Lantern Convention

The Magic Lantern Convention held in July in Boston was a great success. Eighty-five people, from seven countries and three continents, spent three days watching shows, listening to presentations, buying and selling items, sharing stories and meals. Although much of the convention was devoted to the magic lantern there were talks about a wide range of visual entertainments. One of the most intriguing was a talk by Jacques Prenez about seditious figures.

Another was given by an unexpected presenter, George L. Mutter, who only contacted me days before the Convention began, and shared an incredible group of 19th century stereo views to be seen with the assistance of 3-D glasses.

Still the majority of time was taken with a variety of talks and shows about the magic lantern. We learned about early lanternists in Venice, a district in Madrid where freak shows and phantasmagoria entertainment were offered, and we were treated to an in depth look at a 1890 catalogue of lantern materials produced by the Berlin firm, W. Hagedorn.

We had so many shows over the weekend. We were treated to amazing photographs of Mary Ann Auckland’s Canadian grandmother (top) and Dick Moore shared some stunning circus images (bottom).

Then there was the wonderfully creative show, The Arctic Theatre Royal (yes polar bear costumes and large windup panorama, presented by the Wonder Show from Providence. 

R.I. Mitsue Ikeda and her troupe of students, from Osaka University, treated us to a rear projection Japanese lantern show. No, no not done yet. How often do people get to attend a film premiere? We had the chance to watch the world premiere of “ A Magic Lantern Life: The Story of the American Magic Lantern Theater.

The convention was held in the midst of my collection and during breaks I showed participants different parts of my collection including an early 18thcentury magic lantern.

On top of all of this we had the dazzling display of Magic Lantern Entertainment at the Brattle theatre in Cambridge. The sold out theatre was alive with laughter, applause and audience participation during five shows on offer that evening. The night’s entertainment ended with Mervyn Heard giving a show entitled How Bill Adams Won the Battle at Waterloo. It was fun and turned history on its head.

It was decided at the end of the convention to hold the next International Convention in two years in New Orleans. There is plenty of opportunity to join the Magic Lantern Society and even get on the program in New Orleans. If you are interested in either finding out more details about the Magic Lantern Society of the U.S. and Canada or joining the Society please contact the Chairman, Ron Easterday, at

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