When looking through all the various photographs and documents kept here at the Archives at Ardfoyle Convent, one collection in particular is remarkably impressive. I am, of course, talking about our rich collection of lantern slides.
Lantern slides are positive transparent photographs made on glass by sensitizing a sheet of glass with a silver gelatin emulsion which is then exposed to a negative of the image and processed, creating a positive transparent image. Invented in 1849 and patented in 1850, these slides were used for home entertainment, lectures, and photographic exhibitions and were viewed using a ‘magic lantern’, which was the precursor of the slide projector.
These slides display fantastic images from the early years of the OLA in West Africa and were used by the OLA for Mission Animation prior to Vatican II. Although undated, the presence of a single map within the slides showing Benin and Nigeria as entirely separate allows us to date this collection to c.1896, just before the British invasion of the Kingdom of Benin and its subsequent incorporation into the then British Nigeria. This means that these slides date to the late 19th century, around twenty years after the foundation of the OLA.
In total, the archive holds sixty-seven of these glass slides, of which very few are damaged. In the interest of both preserving and showcasing these treasures, a digitization project has been undertaken within the archive to preserve these treasures. Today, I have selected a few of the more striking images found within the collection for your enjoyment.