Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Unusual Artifacts: A Mutoscope of Queen Victoria laying the foundation stone of the Victoria & Albert Museum

The Victoria & Albert Museum

This is very cool and quite unusual. Here, we see a mutoscope--an early type of cinematography, invented by Herman Casler and patented in 1895. The mutoscope worked on a visual principle similar to that of a flip book, giving the illusion of movement by viewing sequential still photographs in rapid succession. This mutoscope is comprised of about 680 photographic prints mounted on a wheel made to revolve by turning a handle. It works as a small catch in the casing holds each photograph in full view until it is pushed forward by the force of those compressed behind it.

The mutoscope shows Queen Victoria (who is seen facing the camera), and other dignitaries, in 1899, drawing up in a carriage outside what would become the Victoria & Albert Museum. A female student of the Royal College of Art presents the Queen with a bouquet of flowers as the carriage then moves away from the stand. This event was a celebration of the laying of the foundation stone of a new building project which remains to this day.

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