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Archive of the Month – December 2015


More magic lantern slides: eclectic collection found in Stillorgan parish, Dublin

(clicking on images below will open in a larger window)

[insert image 01]
Unlabelled slide showing a group – presumably the travel party – of 15 (13 men and two women) in an olive grove with locals looking on in the background. One of the men has his hand up either to shield from the sun, or make some astrological point, RCB Library Stillorgan Lantern Slides, Europe–Holy Land travel

A significant eclectic collection of 105 lantern slides has recently turned up in the Dublin parish of Stillorgan [Parish website: www.stbrigidsandallsaints.com]

[insert image 02]

Thanks to the foresight and conscientious efforts of John Dunne, Anona Fitzell and other parishioners who salvaged the slides, (complete with an original camera bag and parts of the original projector) and recently transferred the collection to the custody of the RCB Library; and with the support of their rector, the Revd Ian Gallagher, all 105 slides have now been digitally re–mastered, and are displayed here for the first time for a worldwide audience

The Stillorgan collection has interesting links to other sets of lantern slides already safely housed in the RCB Library, emphasising once again the particular power of the magic lantern in a church context, enabling both promotion of the church’s mission efforts and also to connect people in local Irish settings with world events.

[insert image 03]
Unlabelled slide featuring man on horse being guided by another man with two Arab children in the foreground, RCB Library Stillorgan Lantern Slides, Europe–Holy Land travel

In this regard, over the past four years via our Archive of the Month medium, we have featured no less than five online exhibits showing a variety of lantern collections all of which demonstrate how the church promoted a variety of religious, charitable and educational causes. These displays remain permanently available on the links below:

  1. Scenes from North India in the late 19th– and early 20th–centuries
  2. Pictures from a tour in Palestine 100 years ago
  3. Closing in on our Killaloe photographe

As well as personal images of subjects close to the photographer – perhaps members of his family, friends, or people from his wider local community; this collection includes various places in Ireland and elsewhere and 28 rare slights of the Irish International Exhibition held in Dublin in 1907 most of which are not available elsewhere and do not form part of the official published record of that event.

  1. More magic lanterns connecting the Church of Ireland and wider world of mission in the 1930s 
  2. Lantern slides from the Boer and First World Wars

[insert images 04, 05, 06 as collage]
Collage of the following left to right: European travel group including at least one cleric in the foreground on camels at The Sphinx, Egypt; Irish round tour; Slide labelled “Nurse with babies in hospital compound” demonstrating the work of the Zenana Missionary Society, RCB Library Stillorgan Lantern Slides

Now to add to these varied collections, the ‘Stillorgan’ lantern sets provide an additional eclectic mix of amateur and commercially–produced images, mostly of foreign travels including European cities, the Mediterranean, Palestine, Egypt, the Lebanon, and more remarkably of India, Nepal, and China in the late 19th century, while two further amateur sets cover aspects of astronomy that may have been used in teaching; and an “odd” mix of nine further images covering everything from hymn verses, to an Irish round tour.

[insert image 07]
Slide labelled “Road from Cairo” showing the Pyramids in the background, RCB Library Stillorgan Lantern Slides, Europe–Holy Land travel

The collection turned up in Stillorgan parish for sale at the parish ‘Mayfair’, and more than likely originated in one of the big houses in the area, where the individual (or individuals) who put them together may have one time lived. Although not a church collection per se, much of the content is underpinned by a Christian outlook, and particularly the importance of Christian mission in the wider world. We have divided the collection into seven distinct sets.

[insert images 08, 09, 10, 11 as collage]
Selection of four slides relating to 19th–century China, from RCB Library Stillorgan Lantern Slides, China

The first of these consists of 11 early images of scenes in China, and whilst several of these depict wonderfully–atmospheric scenes of everyday life in urban and rural settings, a couple also feature compounds, large two– and three–storey buildings, and various teacher/student groups which may be early visual evidence of a Christian educative and medical mission.

[insert image 12]
Village scene, India, late 19thcentury, RCB Library Stillorgan Lantern Slides, Zenana

The next set moves to various places in India, Nepal and modern–day Pakistan and judging by the handwritten labels on most of the slides, relates to ‘C.E.Z.M.S.’ – the Church of England Zenana Missionary Society – founded in 1880. The literal meaning of the word ‘zenana’ is ‘of the women’ or ‘pertaining to women’, and contextually in Hindu or Muslim cultures of India and other parts of Asia refers to the part of a house reserved exclusively for the women of the household.

[insert image 12a]
Zenana Missionary Society advertisement as it appeared in various editions of the Church of Ireland Gazette, early 20th century, Church of Ireland Gazette 7 January 1916

The aim of the Zenana Missionary Society, which had an Irish branch (advertisements for which appear regularly in the Church of Ireland Gazette) was to evangelise women, by visiting them in their homes – zenana visiting – but also through normal schools (teacher training colleges), medical missions, Hindu and Muslim female schools and the employment of Bible women. It began its work in India, which later spread to China in 1884, Japan in 1886 and Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) in 1889.

[insert image 13]
Slide labelled: “Out patients at Tarn Taran listening to Bible woman”, from RCB Library Stillorgan Lantern Slides, China

Of the ten images in this set, a wide variety of activities involving CEZMS missionaries are depicted, including teaching, medical care in hospitals and the community, distributing food, and the role of the Bible woman. The wide geographical spread covered by the images – ranging from the Gosha Hospital in Madras [now Chennai] to Ratnapur hospital in Nepal, and Quetta in what has become Pakistan – would indicate that they were put together for promotional purposes to demonstrate the Society’s work perhaps for fund–raising purposes in Ireland.

The largest set in the ‘Stillorgan’ collection consists of an extensive 39 slides, most of them commercially produced, depicting travels from mainland Italy, through Greece, Turkey, Palestine, Egypt. Whilst an incomplete set, these have been arranged with the commercial ones first as labelled in numerical sequence, followed by five amateur shots, not part of the main commercial sequence next, and a few odd other items at the end. Of the main sequence, the image of the Howard Hotel, located on the Jaffa Road in Jerusalem, helps to date the set, as being pre–1900 because this hotel was renamed the Hotel du Parc by 1900.

[insert image 14]
Slide labelled “Howard Hotel Jerusalem”. This hotel was located on the Jaffa Road, and its appearance in this collection helps to date the entire set of slide to before 1900, because it was renamed the Hotel du Parc by 1900, RCB Library Stillorgan Lantern Slides, Europe–Holy Land travel

Of the five amateur shots in this set, one in particular provides an extraordinary connection with a previous online presentation, available here where we discussed the journey and possible link of a set of Palestine slides to David Brown of Donaghmore.

[insert image 15]
Slide labelled “D Brown Donaghmore 1896 Jaffa”, RCB Library Stillorgan Lantern Slides, Europe–Holy Land travel

Imagine our amazement when the handwritten label on the side of this slide featuring a street scene in the port town of Jaffa was revealed: ‘D Brown Donaghmore 1896 Jaffa’. What this single label may indicate is that copies of Brown’s private collection were being shared with other enthusiasts, including the person or persons who put together the ‘Stillorgan’ collection. Prof. Shimon Gibson (University of North Carolina at Charlotte/expert on the photography of Ottoman Palestine) has advised us it was not unusual for personal collections to contain a mixture of commercial and personal images:

“On their return to their home country, the traveler would deposit all these materials with a photographic agency and a set of lantern slides was thus prepared, numbered and identified, and stored in a nice wooden box. If any shot was missing, slides might even be supplied by the agency itself (acquired from different sources: such as the Palestine Exploration Fund in London). Hence, any collection of “personal” lantern slides will contain an array of pictures and these might be personal (i.e. pictures by the traveler and his fellow travelers) or commercial (i.e. pictures taken for the general tourist market or made specifically at the behest of the traveler)”.

Of the other four non–commercial images that may link to Brown’s journey, there is a wonderful shot of a travel party – 15 people in total, 13 men and two women – who appear to be standing in an olive grove with locals looking on from the background.  One of the men at the extreme left of the front row has his hand up in a very particular way – either to shield his eyes from the sun, or perhaps to make some astrological point (which would tie in with the astronomy images elsewhere in the collection). Faces of participants on the journey are also revealed by this image of a European–looking man being guided by another while two Arab children look on in the foreground. The final amateur slide is of ‘a house near Beyrout’ in the Lebanon, revealing a typical Middle Eastern style with flat–roofed patio over ground floor.

[insert image 17]
Slide labelled “House near Beyrout” [Beirut, Lebanon] showing three men on upper veranda of small house, RCB Library Stillorgan Lantern Slides, Europe–Holy Land travel

[insert images 18, 19, 20 as collage]
Collage of the following left to right: Hand–drawn diagram of ‘Section of Tumulus at New Grange’, RCB Library Stillorgan Lantern Slides, Astronomy; Slide labelled “Martyr’s Monument – Wigtown Hill” [Stirling, Scotland], RCB Library Stillorgan Lantern Slides, Other European Travels; Commercial slide of “St Peter’s and the Vatican”, RCB Library Stillorgan Lantern Slides , Italy/Sicily set

Of the final sets in the collection, there are 21 slides which formed part of a larger commercial set covering famous sites in the Italian cities of Rome, Florence, Venice and Palermo on the island of Sicily; eight odd slides depict miscellaneous other European travels (both commercial and non–commercial) ranging from the pre–war landscape of Cologne to the Martyr’s Monument at Wigtown Hill, near Stirling in Scotland; the set of seven astronomy slides which include extracts from printed materials but also a hand–drawn diagram of a ‘section of tumulus at New Grange’ reflecting an Irish dimensions; while a final set of nine slides comprising “odd items” – ranging from an Irish round tower to the verses of the hymn ‘Jesus shall reign where’er the sun’ which might have been sung at one or all of these slide shows to engage the viewing audience.

[Finish with slide 21]
Verse from the hymn ‘Jesus shall reign where’er the sun’, which may have been used to engage the viewing audience

The seven ‘Stillorgan’ slide shows are available here.

1. China slideshow

2. Zenana – India – Pakistan slideshow

3. Europe – Holy Land – Egypt slideshow

4. Italy – Sicily (extracted from commerical sets) slideshow

5. Other European travels slideshow

6. Astronomy slideshow

7. Oddities slideshow


For further information please contact:
Dr Susan Hood
RCB Library
Braemor Park
Dublin 14
Tel: 01–4923979
Fax: 01–4924770
E–mail: susan.hood@rcbdub.org