The Witte Museum in San Antonio is the place to go for really unique and exciting exhibits that are outside of the box. But with this current exhibit, it’s more about, well, inside the box. The Witte is currently featuring magic lanterns from the 1700s until the early 1900s that were used for teaching and storytelling.
There has been some debate about who the original inventor of the magic lantern is, but the most widely accepted theory is that Christiaan Huygens developed the original device in the late 1650s. Interestingly, the main light sources used during the time it was invented were candles and oil lamps.
In the early years of its development, it was often used by magicians and conjurers to project images, making them appear or disappear, animate normally inanimate objects, or convince people that the dead were coming back to life! Eventually, the magic lantern came to America. It continued to be used by magicians but also to project moving images for entertainment. The devices utilized concepts that brought modern film projection and television into existence.
The Witte exhibition, which runs until June of 2014, will feature examples of Magic Lanterns from the finest collection known: The Jack Judson Magic Lantern Castle Collection. Visitors will get to see all aspects of making a magic lantern show in the 1800s, the equipment used, as well as projections of the final presentations.