Transmission in Motion


24 February 2021
15:00 - 17:00
Microsoft Teams

Transmission in Motion Seminar (2020-2021): “Knowledge Transmission with the Lantern” – Frank Kessler, Jamilla Notebaard and Nico de Klerk (Utrecht University)

From the 1880s onwards, approximately, the magic lantern – then mostly called optical lantern to mark the difference with earlier entertainment practices – was increasingly used as an instrument for knowledge transmission by numerous societal organisations, but also in schools and universities. In our presentation we will first look at the affordances of the lantern that were foregrounded by those who adopted the new medium and in what ways it changed the modalities of knowledge transmission.

Subsequently, we will focus on the debates that accompanied the introduction of lantern, and then film projections as promising new visual teaching aids in the first decades of the twentieth century in the Netherlands and the United States. The arguments, both pro and con, with which these media were publicly discussed, were largely based on opinion rather than on substantiated facts. It took about a decade in both countries to establish experimentally their respective effectivity in learning.

Therefore, we will discuss two series of experiments conducted in the Netherlands and the United States more or less simultaneously (1922-1923). Besides a discussion of what these experiments revealed about the respective teaching aids, they also reveal a limitation in the sense that they created a setting that had little resemblance to and, therefore, probably less value for the very situation in which the experiment was conducted: a class.

Suggested Reading
  • Eisenhauer, Jennifer F. “Next Slide Please: The Magical, Scientific, and Corporate Discourses of Visual Projection Technologies.”Studies in Art Education 47, No. 3 (Spring, 2006): 198-214.

Research Team “Projecting Knowledge – The Magic Lantern as a Tool for Mediated Science Communication in the Netherlands, 1880-1940”:

Frank Kessler is a professor of Media History at Utrecht University and currently the Director of Utrecht University’s Research Institute for Cultural Inquiry (ICON). He is a co-founder and co-editor of KINtop. Jahrbuch zur Erforschung des frühen Films and the KINtop Studies in Early Cinema series. From 2003 to 2007 he was the president of DOMITOR, an international association for research on early cinema. He has published numerous articles on film history and particularly early cinema.

Jamilla Notebaard studied History at the University of Amsterdam, where she also finished her Research Master in History. As a historian she has always been interested in the ways in which knowledge is ‘produced’ and transmitted, especially scientific knowledge. This project is a way to gain insight into the ways in which scientific knowledge was communicated for educational purposes by means of the magic lantern.

Nico de Klerk has many years of working experience as a film historical researcher, archivist, and curator, which heavily informed his dissertation titled ‘Showing and Telling: Film Heritage Institutes and their Performance of Public Accountability’. As a post-doc researcher, he will focus on the extramural use of the magic lantern by academics in activities of public engagement.