Lantern slides are the precursor to the modern slide projector or data projector. Copied from original photographs, they are glass plates made to be projected as part of a lecture or, popular 'entertainments'.

Invented just after photography, the new projection technologies allowed photographic images to be seen by large audiences for the first time.

History of the Australian Museum lantern slide collections

The Australian Museum's official lantern slide collection began with the opening of the Hallstrom Lecture Theatre in 1910. Through the 1920s to mid 1950s, lantern slides were the Museum's image bank, created, used and re-used for lectures and talks on a huge range of subjects by Museum scientists, educators and visitors, both on site in our lecture theatre and off site using portable projectors in community venues in Sydney and regional NSW.

We could think of the lectures as historical snapshots of the Museum’s activities and what it was proud to highlight in the first few decades of the twentieth century.

Carefully registered and indexed to maximise use, the lantern slides form the museum's image vocabulary for the mid-20th Century.

This very large collection of lecture based images has up until now been under-researched. However now with recent digitisation and the subsequent cataloguing this interesting part of the Museum's history of science, education, photography and outreach can be explored.

The collection's strength is its size (upwards of 10,000 slides), continuity and comprehensive documentation.

The lantern slides are accompanied by the original registrations, indexes and sometimes the lectures or published accounts of lectures they illustrated. We also hold some lantern slide equipment and related photographic collections and education records to provide detailed context for the slides as they were created and used.

We also hold a few other donated and collected lantern slide collections (not made or used by the Australian Museum).

Collection highlights

  • Australian Museum lantern slide collection

    Made and dated from 1903 to 1959.

  • Frank Hurley collection

    Lantern slide collection made by Frank Hurley and others made by Museum staff using our original Hurley glass photographic plates.

  • National Photographic collection

    Index of Australian Birds lantern slides collections.

  • Missionary collections

    Lantern slides used to promote missionary work in the Pacific.

  • Anthony Musgrave collection

    Personal and scientific collection of Anthony Musgrave, Australian Museum scientist and talented photographer.

Discover more photographic collections

See more photographic collections from Australian Museum Archives.

Discover more