Geographical projections: lantern-slides and the making of geographical knowledge at the Royal Geographical Society c.1885 – 1924
Hayes, Emily Jane Eleanor Rhydderch
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
This thesis is about the mobilities of geographical knowledge in the material form of lantern-slides and the forces exerted on these by technological and human factors. Owing to its concern with matter, human- and non-human, and its circulation, the thesis addresses the physics of geographical knowledge. The chapters below investigate the Royal Geographical Society’s (RGS) ongoing tradition of telling stories of science and exploration through words, objects and pictures in the final quarter of the nineteenth century and as geography professionalized and geographical science developed. These processes occurred within the context of a plethora of technological innovations, including the combination of the older medium of the magic lantern and photographic lantern-slides, integral to a wide range of entertainment, scientific and educational performances across Britain. In 1886 the RGS began to engage with the magic lantern. Via this technology and the interactive lecture performances in which it featured, I argue that the Society embraced the medium of photography, thereby engendering transformations in methods of knowledge making and to the RGS collections. I study how these transformations influenced the discipline of Geography as it was re-established at the University of Oxford in 1887. I demonstrate the evolution of the RGS’s Evening, Technical and Young Persons’ lectures, their contingent lantern-slide practices and, consequently, how these moulded, and were moulded by, the RGS Fellowship between c. 1885 and 1924. The chapters below explore how these innovations in visual technologies and practices arose, how they circulated knowledge and their effect on geographies of geographical knowledge making. By harnessing the lantern the RGS attracted an expanding and diversifying audience demographic. The thesis demonstrates the interactive nature of RGS lantern-slide lectures and audiences' important role in shaping the Society’s practices and geographical knowledge. The chapters below argue that it was via the use of the lantern that geography was disseminated to new places. The thesis therefore brings additional perspectives and dimensions to understandings of the circulation of geographical knowledge.
Arts and Humanities Research Council- funded Collaborative Doctoral Award.
PhD in Geography