It's Instagram but not as we know it up at Kiwi North this summer.
Kiwi North's summer display is all about Magica Lanterna – the Latin name for magic lanterns which captivated audiences in a cinema-type setting back in the day.
The magic lantern was the first slide projector in the 1800s and, like Instagram today, shows helped people share images with a large audience. But even better, said, Kiwi North exhibitions curator Georgia Kerby, lantern shows were multimedia performances.
"Special effects like smoke and lighting, moving slides, music and sounds, together brought the imagination to life."
Kerby said Kiwi North holds a large collection in storage, due to lack of display space and light sensitivity, which is brought out on a rotational basis for display. The museum has three exhibitions a year and the Magica Lanterna - a first for the museum - is the summer exhibition from November 13-March 28.
"We were updating the records of the slide collection and realised that we had some real treasures," she said. "The collection ultimately comes from our community - items on display have been donated between the 1890s and this year - so I am pleased more information will be shared back to them."
The display is a snapshot of early projection and animation and showcases a selection from hand-painted slides, photography and a range of magic lanterns.
A lantern slide is a semi-transparent image sandwiched between two sheets of glass. The images are projected onto screens with magic lanterns. Artists hand-painted images on to the earliest lantern slides before photography and print.
Migrants brought these devices made of brass and mahogany to New Zealand around the 1830s and churches, lecture halls, theatres and living rooms were brought to life with scenes projected by magic lanterns. Community halls in the heartland of New Zealand would share in this global phenomena either by purchasing a communal lantern or being visited by a travelling lanternist. Whangārei venues included the Oddfellows Hall, Cubbitt's Hall, the YMCA and the Theatre Royal.
Amateur Whangārei lanternist and fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society Charles Michie donated his collection of over 250 astronomy slides, some of which are on display, along with slides depicting scenes from around Whangārei such as a bullock ambling down Cameron St, the Town Basin, a funeral procession on Bank St, Mair's Boat Shed at Mair Park and the Whangārei Volunteer Fire Brigade. Most of the slides are in impeccable order after being stored individually-wrapped in acid-free envelopes.
Candles powered the first magic lanterns. Performers placed the screen close to candlelight for the image to show. Next, "limelight" was introduced; A mixture of oxygen, hydrogen and lime was combined to produce a bright light. However, this was dangerous and often created disasters.
Examples of the lanterns on display include the kerosene-fuelled version, later evolving to a light bulb before the arrival of electricity gave magic lanterns new life. There is also a toy lantern sample – a smaller model for domestic use.
As well as entertainment and educational purposes, like the cinema, magic lanterns were used for advertising and the Kiwi North exhibition displays a slide for Amy Englund advertising her florist business on Maunu Rd in the 1920s when phone numbers for Whangārei were only four digits.
Eventually the popularity of magic lanterns was superseded by the cinema. However, they remained useful tools into the 1950s.
Kiwi North's Magic Lantern exhibition is family-friendly and interactive and a one-off theatrical show is planned for early next year. Further information can be found at www.kiwinorth.co.nz or the Kiwi North Facebook page.