Moving Pictures, Optical Entertainments and the Advent of Cinema Available Now!

29 November 2012

This fourth section of Victorian Popular Culture explores the pivotal era in entertainment history when previously static images came to life and moved for the first time.

Through the wealth of printed and visual material, as well as artefacts, browsers are able to imagine the wide-eyed wonder of those early audiences, experiencing the magic of Victorian inventions and optical entertainments.

This section features printed ephemera, programmes, sheet music, cigarette cards, postcards, games, toys and other merchandise from the pre- and early-cinematic years.

Key Features/Subjects:

  • Original film footage (1894-1926) from the BFI National Archives
  • 360-degree object ‘handling’
  • Early visual entertainment such as shadow play, optical illusions, metamorphic pictures and protean views
  • Panoramas and dioramas
  • Optical or philosophical toys
  • Peepshows
  • Magic lanterns and image projection
  • Pioneers of cinema: Thomas Alva Edison, the Lumière Brothers, Eadweard Muybridge
  • Early inventions such as the cinematograph, phonograph and zoopraxiscope
  • The emerging film industry
  • The first film stars

This section also features ‘Optical Delights’, a virtual exhibition showcasing a selection of the most interesting optical entertainment artefacts, including video clips of the devices in action.

Material is sourced from the Bill Douglas Centre; a unique treasure trove of pre- and early-cinematic memorabilia based at Exeter University, and the BFI National Archive.