California Mission Lantern Slides

Dublin Core


California Mission Lantern Slides


Missions California


This set of California Mission lantern slides was acquired by the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation in 2018 from the Oberlin College Archives. A selection have been digitized and presented for public access.

Lantern slides are designed to be projected on a wall or screen through a variety of "Magic Lantern" projectors, precursors to the carousel slide projectors of the late 20th century. A glass plate is coated with a light-sensitive emulsion, exposed to light filtered through a negative, developed in a chemical bath and dried. The finished positive image is covered with a protective second piece of glass and the pair is wrapped with black tape to hold them together as a single unit. Lantern slides were commonly used for entertainment and educational purposes from 18th century until the mid-20th century.

This collection is mostly a study of both interior and exterior views of many California missions, from San Diego de Alcala to San Francisco Solano. Although the photos are not dated, their subject matter indicates that they were taken sometime between 1900 and the 1930s, after the missions fell into ruins but before various reconstruction and conservation projects began in earnest. There is no indication of who took the photographs, as is often the case with lantern slides that were commercially produced.

As a collection, the slides are an interesting study of mission architecture: we can observe the various styles of the missions, such as neoclassical and Baroque. They also provide a larger context for the missions as they appeared in the early twentieth century: distressed and ruined by neglect, earthquakes, weather, and human hands. They also provide a before-and-after comparison to study the preservation movement and efforts to reconstruct the missions in the first half of the twentieth century.


Presidio Research Center


Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation




Laurie Hannah, Chris Ervin




Lantern slides



Collection Items

California Missions Map
Map of California Missions

Mission San Diego de Alcalá
Deteriorating façade of chapel

Mission San Luis Rey de Francía
Bell tower and façade with car in front

Mission San Juan Capistrano bell tower from garden
View of bell tower façade from garden

Mission San Juan Capistrano bell wall with four bells
View of bell wall with four bells

Mission San Gabriel Arcángel
View of bell tower before 1931 when the top bell was replaced

Mission San Gabriel Arcángel
Altar and statuary

Mission Santa Bárbara
Façade of mission with car in front

Mission Santa Bárbara
Main entrance wooden doors

Mission Santa Bárbara sanctuary window and door
sanctuary window and door with skull and crossbones
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