As part of the preparations for the Power of Stories exhibition, many of the objects going on display needed a bit of love and care. In today’s blog post, Senior Conservation Officer Bob Entwistle explains how a Magic Lantern set was prepared for display.

The Wooden Roots crew in front of a stall at a market

The box before conservation work

The set, which came in a box containing the projector and a set of slides, was made as a child’s toy and imported from Germany in the late 19th Century. The projector was worked by methylated spirit or oil to produce a flame. This projected the images onto a white backdrop.

The box was scuffed and the leather imitation paper was peeling. The paper was reattached and relayed with strachpaste adhesive. The illustration on the box was cleaned with a smoke sponge – a very fine eraser that removes dirt and dust.

The Wooden Roots crew in front of a stall at a market

The box after conservation work

The projector was cleaned with water and non-ionic conservation detergent on swabs. The brass and blackcoated metal were polished with Prelim paste on cotton wool and then treated with microcrystalline wax and buffed.

In case the slides had been painted, we carefully cleaned them with damp swabs and detergent.

The slides were loose in the box due to a small retaining rod being missing. Quite by chance, the small rod was found in another box. We were then able to return the rod, secure the slides and make all correct again.

Similar projection sets were made until quite recently. I was given one as a child for Christmas, although my projector was powered by batteries, and showed slides of Thunderbirds.

A magic lantern and set of slides

The lantern and slides before and after conservation work

You can see the magic lantern in the Power of Stories exhibition – open at Christchurch Mansion until 24 October!