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Lantern Slide Series


Scope and Contents

The Roman Society lantern slide collection was created in the late nineteenth century through the initiative of its members to advance the study of ancient Roman art, archaeology, and history. Lantern slides were central to this endeavour, and they were employed as a valuable educational medium in the research, teaching, and publications of the Society. At the time, lantern slides were considered an innovative and immersive technology that could best serve the Society’s mission to increase public and scholarly engagement with the ancient Roman world. The lantern slide collection originally totalled over ten thousand slides and was conceived as a vast visual resource for educators and institutions to teach archaeology – its continuing development was a cornerstone of the Roman Society’s aims. Ready-made lectures were lent or sold with sets of fifty slides for this purpose and were a popular feature of the Society’s activities in the 1920s and 1930s.

This collection contains approximately one thousand and two hundred slides and include images of ancient Roman architecture and art across Italy, Europe, and North Africa. They include archaeological sites and excavations, landscapes and city views, maps and plans, and geographic features. The majority of slides date to the first decades of the 20th century. Excavations and views of the Roman Forum comprise a large section of the collection, and document various phases of excavation from the 1890s to 1930s. The architecture – theatres, arches, fora - of ancient cities in North Africa, such as Thugga, Leptis Magna, Thamugadi, also features prominently in the collection. Also represented are archaeological sites and aerial views of Ostia, Pompeii, and Paestum. Documentary in nature, many lantern slides are valuable records of early excavations, and often provide the only evidence of buildings and objects that have since been destroyed, reconstructed, or displaced from their original contexts. Architectural elements of walls, arches, bridges, aqueducts, and roads such as the Via Appia appear frequently, as well as geographic features including lakes, rivers, and mountains. Slides of Sardinia, Sicily, and the Campagna Romana are common in this regard.

Prominent archaeologists, classicists, and historians such as John Linton Myres, Jocelyn Toynbee, and Thomas Ashby (many of whom were also were members of the BSR) greatly contributed to the creation of the Roman Society lantern slide collection, often taking or commissioning photographs during their research and travels. Notably, many women are named as donors of lantern slides in the Roman Society annual reports and register of photographic negatives. Historian Agnes Muriel Clay, archaeologist P.B. Mudie Cooke, philanthropist and scholar Norah S. Clogstoun, and photographers Agnes and Dora Bulwer are only some examples of women - often leading scholars, curators, photographers, and travellers - that played an active role in the Society, contributing original research, collections of images, and lectures.

Reference number



  • 1890 - 1950

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open to researchers.

Historical note

As early as 1890, members of the Hellenic Society (of which the Roman Society was originally a part), started to form a lending slide collection for the purpose of “lecturing on the subject…of archaeology.” Conceived as both a reference archive and teaching collection, the joint library of lantern slides originally totalled over ten thousand images, and provided a source of imagery that spanned the ancient word across genre, time periods, cultures, and geography. The Roman Society collection started small, but quickly increased in the early 1920s along with the availability of lantern lecture sets written by society members, who were leading scholars in the fields of art history, archaeology, and classics. In fact, over twelve thousand slides were lent out to members and partner institutions in 1927, one of the highest numbers in the history of the Society. Faculty, staff, and students of the BSR, such as Jocelyn Toynbee, Thomas Ashby, Agnes and Dora Bulwer, George Hallam, and Eugénie Sellers Strong, greatly contributed to both the Roman Society lantern slide collection and series of lectures, serving in multiple roles as authors, teachers, collectors, donors, and photographers.


1,130 Lantern Slides : b&w ; approximately 8 x 8 cm

Language of Materials

From the Collection: English


Lantern slide collection used in teaching and research dating to the late 19th century and early 20th century. The collection includes images of ancient Roman architecture and art across Italy, Europe, and North Africa.


The lantern slide collection was organized numerically in four main series (A, B, C, and D). A and B very loosely correspond to ancient Greece and ancient Rome respectively. Series C and D embrace a wide range of material. Ancient Roman culture, considered broadly, is the primary focus of The Roman Society collection and thus it primarily consists of lantern slides from Series B and C. The Roman Society register of photographic negatives also lists the lantern slides according to series, and contains additional information such as titles and descriptions, donors and creators, and availability of each image in different media (glass and film negative, lantern slide, photographic print). Many images in the collection only exist in one form. Often only the lantern slide survives and they are especially significant in this regard.


Repository Details

Part of the British School at Rome Archive & Special Collections Repository

Via Gramsci, 61
Rome 00197 Italy