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


“Projecting Knowledge” will study the use of the magic lantern in science communication in the Netherlands, 1880-1940, and thereby elucidate the role of this important visual medium in the transmission and dissemination of knowledge. Adding “showing” to “telling”, the lantern allowed to share visual information with an entire auditorium and to present scientific information in challenging ways never seen before. It transformed both teaching and public lecturing comparable to the changes brought about by computer programmes such as PowerPoint. Three subprojects will, respectively, analyse the scope of public illustrated lectures aimed at the general audience, the didactic use of projected images in academic teaching, and the background of individual lecturers and scientists who were active in the field of public engagement with the help of the lantern. The synthesis will provide a comprehensive history of the lantern’s role in science communication and dissemination from 1880, when the lantern became a mass medium, to the beginning of the Second World War. The goal of the project is to analyse the didactic affordances of the lantern, the science communication strategies that it made possible, and the public image of science that resulted from this.
The project will draw upon the wealth of hitherto little explored collections of lantern slides in Dutch universities, libraries, archives and museums, allowing a study based on primary source material. It will collaborate with several institutions to help them investigate this cultural heritage and make it accessible for the benefit of scholars as well as the general public.


Project number


Main applicant

Prof. dr. F.E. Kessler

Affiliated with

Universiteit Utrecht, Faculteit Geesteswetenschappen, Departement Media- en Cultuurwetenschappen

Team members

D. Da Rocha Gonçalves, N.H. de Klerk, J. Notebaard MA


01/09/2018 to 31/08/2023