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Photographic lantern slides became commercially viable in the early 1850s. The earliest lantern slides were made from albumen coated glass negatives and positives and later were produced using the collodion wet plate process. By the 1870s the magic lantern show had become a fairly common and popular form of entertainment. By 1890 the invention of the dry plate process made photography available to amateurs and initiated a renewed interest in lantern slides as camera clubs around the country promoted slide sets for exhibition enabling artists to present their work to large audiences.

At the turn of the century, lantern slides played a significant role in the American cultural experience. The historic information contained in lantern slides extends beyond the individual image as most slides were produced as part of a set. Images were selected for not only their individual aesthetic interest but also for what they contributed to the narrative of the story line.


These lantern slides represent a small part of the more than 750,000 archival photographs in the Photo Archive collection at the Palace of the Governors. A sample of the collection, which includes historic photographic prints, cased photographs, glass plate negatives, film negatives, stereographs, photo postcards, panoramas, and color transparencies, can be found online at http://econtent.unm.edu/cdm4/indexpg.php.