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New Research Project: B-Magic. The Magic Lantern and its Cultural Impact as Visual Mass Medium in Belgium (1830-1940)

This project will write the as yet unwritten history of the magic lantern as a mass medium in Belgium. In doing so, it will make an essential contribution to the study of the country’s cultural history as well as to international media historiography. It aims to rediscover the various functions of the lantern performance within the Belgian public sphere, in particular, its use in the transmission and negotiation of knowledge, norms and values by different societal groups. Scientists and entertainers, teachers and priests, political movements and organizations: they all used projected visual narratives to inform, entertain, educate and mobilize audiences of up to more than a thousand people per occasion. The lantern was the first visual mass medium to contest the printed word as a primary mode of information and instruction. All layers of society, both literate and illiterate, received visual information about nature, religion, science, new technologies and foreign countries. The B-Magic consortium will research the pivotal role of the magic lantern in Belgian society from the country’s independence (1830) up to 1940, when its use declined. To this end, it brings together an interdisciplinary team of researchers from Performance Studies, Cinema and Media Studies, Urban History, History of Science and Knowledge, Communication Studies, Semiotics, and Narratology. B-Magic will produce the first comprehensive study of the role of the magic lantern as a mass medium in a country.

Project leader is Prof Kurt Vanhoutte from the University of Antwerp, who also was Principal Investigator of the Research Team Antwerp at the Million Pictures Project. Other partners of B-MAGIC are Prof. VAN DAMME Ilja (University of Antwerp), Prof. NASTA Dominique, Prof. VANHAESEBROUCK Karel (Université libre de Bruxelles), Prof. WILS Kaat (KU Leuven), Prof. MARION Philippe (Université Catholique de Louvain), Dr. CARELS Edwin (KASK Gent) and Prof. KESSLER Frank (Utrecht University).

A short item on the project was presented on the Belgian News on 22 January 2018 (in French):

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