Classical Antiquity Lantern Slide Collection (Bryn Mawr College)

Parthenon; East Pediment; View of figure K, 447-438 BC, British Museum. Image and original data provided by Bryn Mawr College

With a collection of over 200,000 slides and 50,000 digital images, the Visual Resources Center at Bryn Mawr College supports the image needs of several academic departments, including the History of Art, Archaeology, Classics, and Growth and Structure of Cities. Among its holdings are a collection of lantern slides focused on Classical Antiquity, dating from the late 19th to mid 20th century. Coverage extends across the Mediterranean world, from Southern Europe (Greece, Italy, Spain, France) to North Africa (Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia) and the Near East (Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria). In many cases, these lantern slides serve as valuable historical records, depicting monuments that have since been completely destroyed or severely damaged. Some slides record excavations in progress or monuments in various stages of repair or restoration, providing unique visual documentation. Other images offer views of sites that have subsequently been obscured by modern development, or significantly altered by the vagaries of time, whether neglect, pollution, or warfare. Thus, these black-and-white images can offer contemporary viewers a fresh view of well-known monuments, colored by the patina of history.

 Lantern slides played a vital role in the development of Art History and Architectural History as academic disciplines by enabling the visual study of works and sites in remote locations. Slide shows, especially those employing tandem projectors to display side-by-side comparisons, became the preferred method of instruction for faculty in these fields. Widely used from the mid-19th century, lantern slides declined in popularity during the mid-20th century, with the advent of the 35 mm color slide. In order to continue using this obsolete technology for study and instruction, the images on the slides must be migrated to formats that are usable to current scholars and students. Also, since lantern slides are constructed from plates of glass, they are inherently fragile and prone to damage. A desire to preserve these visual records, as well as to re-purpose them for current technologies, led the Visual Resources Center to partner with the Center for the Study of Architecture (CSA) at Bryn Mawr. Through this collaboration, the collection of lantern slides was re-photographed for use as 35mm slides, as well as high-resolution digital images. These digital images have also been made available in Artstor, with over 300 examples of Classical architecture, architectural decoration, and sculpture.