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Digitising William Morris’s Lantern Slides (Part 1)

William Morris lantern slide showing wallpaper design

William Morris Lantern Slide

© 2008 The William Morris Society,

All rights reserved.

Over the coming week we’ll be working with the William Morris Society to digitise their unique collection of lantern slides.

Digitising the slides will finally help to open up their access to a wider audience, who may then be able to help provide important information about the provenance and content of individual slides. It’s suspected that one of the images may even be a unique portrait of William Morris’s daughter, May Morris, and that lantern slide images of the Kelmscott House residence may be the only surviving photographic depiction of the residence; the same residence where Morris founded the Kelmscott Press in 1890, and where he died on 3 October 1896 (now the present headquarters of the William Morris Society). Other unique items may also surface as a result of digitising this remarkable collection.

The Magic Lantern was the forerunner of the modern slide projector (which, in turn, is now almost obsolete, with the advent of digital projection). Lantern slides were often the standard means of illustrating lectures during the 19th century up to the 1930s. The slides consist of two pieces of glass bound together with gummed paper strips or seals with the photographic emulsion bound to one of the inner glass surfaces and protected on the inside of the sandwich. Lantern slide shows would typically feature famous landmarks, foreign lands and personages. Already, we’ve noticed that the William Morris slide collection does indeed reflect this trend – we’ve spotted an iconic image of Big Ben, depictions of Kelmscott Manor (William Morris’s country house), as well as portraits and images of some of William Morris’s famous wallpaper designs. For more information about Lantern Slides see

The slides were originally kept in a wooden box, seemingly adapted from cheddar cheese packaging (i.e. from the sizes of the labelling fitting the box as it stands, it seems that these were the original ‘Maypole’ cheddar box dimensions); an artefact in itself that will be preserved as part of the William Morris Archive. Prior to digitisation however, we’ll be rehousing the items in unbuffered four-flap negative enclosures and within acid-free and lignin free unbuffered lantern slides boxes, and cushioned by archival polyethylene foam to boot! – naturally the optimum protection to ensure their long-term preservation.

To ensure their long-term digital preservation: high resolution TIFFs will be generated that closely replicate the original images, i.e. archival ‘forensic’ copies if you like, which seek to capture everything including any blemishes, changes to chemical structure, fading and evidence of the original photographic processes used in creating the lantern slides. JPEGs will be produced to enable the Society to then use these images for publishing on the web as well as for educational or publicity purposes.

We’ll keep you posted about the final project outputs and any other interesting discoveries as we’ll eventually be providing a detailed online case study of the project via the ULCC website. The digitisation of the lantern slides should be completed by early next week, and it’s expected that the digital outputs will provide a fascinating insight into the life and times of William Morris.

For research enquiries regarding the William Morris Archive, please contact:

The William Morris Society

Kelmscott House

26 Upper Mall, Hammersmith, London, UK, W6 9TA

Phone: 020 8741 3735

Fax: 020 8748 5207



One thought on “Digitising William Morris’s Lantern Slides (Part 1)”

  1. John Plotz says:


    I’m an English professor who’s been working on Morris for a while now, mostly with the prose romances and “News from Nowhere.” I read with great interest about the project that you undertook to digitize a collection of Morris magic lantern slides, and I would be very interested to know more. Do these for example include the slides that I had heard he used for lectures on typefaces? If there is a way to take a look at some of the images, I’d be just delighted, as I think they may be very germane to my current research which is about how writers in the 1890’s made use of or responded to emerging visual technologies.

    I look forward very much to hearing from you!


    John Plotz

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