Magic lantern slides - including giant squid on beach - are hit for Scarborough museums

Historic magic lantern slides from the Scarborough Collections are proving to be a huge online hit.

Tuesday, 31st March 2020, 1:38 pm
Updated Tuesday, 31st March 2020, 1:40 pm
Giant squid on Scarborough beach

As part of Scarborough Museums Trust’s response to closure due to the current coronavirus crisis, collections manager Jim Middleton is posting regular images from the Trust’s collection of slides and glass plate negatives on Twitter, using the hashtag #lockdownlanternslides.

“We’re getting comments and queries from other museums, historians and the public nationwide,” he said.

“This includes an interaction the other day with the Natural History Museum in London, who contacted us during a series of posts themed around cephalopods, the family of marine animals that includes octopus and squid.

“We’d posted an image of a 5.3 meter-long giant squid which was washed up on the North Bay beach on January 14 1933, surrounded by curious local people.

“We’d always known that they had the beak of the squid, but they got in touch to say they had the whole animal preserved in their archive. We’ll be hoping to get a better look at it when we can.”

Other themes have included historic local buildings, including some which no longer exist, such as the North Bay pleasure pier which was destroyed in a storm in 1905; and typical vintage seaside scenes including children rock pooling and bathing beauty contests.

Magic lanterns were early image projectors which used a light source to magnify and project images on glass. It was used for both education and entertainment, particularly during the 19th and early 20th centuries. The Scarborough Collections – the name given to all the museum objects owned by the Borough of Scarborough, and in the care of Scarborough Museums Trust – contains over 7,000 such slides and glass plates.

You can see the images which Jim is posting daily by following @SMT_Collections on Twitter. And to view existing posts, search #lockdownlanternslides.