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National Science and Media Museum acquires large collection of magic lantern slides showing 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.  

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.  

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.

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.  

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 our blog.


Notes to Editors 

For more information, interviews, and images please contact Katie Canning, Communications Manager on  / 01274 203027  
A press pack of images can be downloaded here.

About the National Science and Media Museum

The National Science and Media Museum in Bradford, West Yorkshire, opened in 1983, and has since become one of the most visited UK museums outside London. It draws on more than three million objects from its national collection to explore the science and culture of image and sound technologies, and their impact on our lives.    
The museum creates special exhibitions, interactive galleries and activities for families and adults, and is home to Pictureville, Yorkshire’s biggest independent cinema with three screens including Europe’s first IMAX and the only public Cinerama venue in the world.   
Please note, the museum is now temporarily closed to the public until summer 2024 to undergo a ‘once-in-a-generation’ transformation. Pictureville Cinema and Bar will remain open 7 days a week. For more information and updates on re-opening, please visit our website.