Balopticoms & lantern slides

27 Jun

Pictured here is a Bausch & Lomb “Balopticom,” ca1930. This antique looking device is a type often referred to as a “magic lantern” and was used to project lantern slides. If you aren’t familiar with these things, the story goes as follows. Before Kodak came out with its 35mm color slide film in the late 1930s, and long before Powerpoint, if you wanted to do a slideshow, you did it with something like this Balopticom. You loaded one glass slide at a time into the projector, displaying the images for a class, a civic group etc. The slides were typically made up of two pieces of glass, one with the image on it, the other sitting on top of the image, and the two sealed round with a paper tape. One major sector of the glass slide business was educational. Companies hired photographers to shoot scenes of nature, localities and people across the world, and then produced and sold the images to educational institutions. The NY State Department of Education used to distribute slides to schools, including Normal schools like Brockport. In the college archives we have a large set of wooden cabinets with hundreds of slides, covering a tremendous range of topics, life in Hawaii or Norway, animals of North America, works of art etc. This set of equipment was a key part of audiovisual equipment here from the 1920s up through, well, perhaps the 1950s; do any readers recall using or viewing the glass slides as students or staff here?

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Posted by on June 27, 2012 in Uncategorized


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