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Magic Lanterns Illuminate the Virtual Museum

Montreal, November 1, 2000 — The McCord Museum has recently added a rare collection of 1,250 Magic Lantern slides to the database of more than 24,000 images on its web site. By exhibiting this significant archive of historic documentation in a uniquely interactive digital setting, the McCord gives visitors an exciting glimpse of how technology can help us explore and understand the discipline of history.

Magic Lantern slides are believed to have originated in ancient Egypt. Allegedly used in sorcery and black magic, this simple medium of visual projection developed into a powerful educational tool and was used by McGill University for a popular travelling public lecture series in the early 20th century. The McCord's web site allows visitors to experience virtual reconstructions of two of these historic McGill lectures, "Across Canada by CPR," and "The St. Lawrence Seaway."

The images in the Magic Lantern collection may also be viewed in thematic groups, or in specially designed 'circuits' designed by historians and other specialists. These virtual guided tours, composed of images and accompanying commentary, will play an important role in the McCord's Laurier Project, an educational initiative that integrates web-based resources into the history curriculum in primary and secondary schools. "We are hoping that as students explore these circuits, and assemble their own thematic tours of the collection, they will learn something of how history is created," said Dr. Nicole Vallières, Director of Collection and Information Management at the McCord Museum.

The McCord's completely renovated web site also allows visitors to research and request photographic reproductions directly from the Notman Photographic Archives, and to create and instantly send elegant e-mail postcards from images anywhere on the site. "We are building a virtual museum," explains Dr. Victoria Dickenson, Executive Director of the McCord. "When virtual visitors were included in the count, our overall attendance for last year doubled."

The McCord's web site continues to offer access to a multitude of other services, including group reservations, gallery rental, McCord membership, School Programs, Community Events, and a wide variety of search criteria for exploration of the McCord's historic collections.

This project has been completed thanks to financial support from the Museums Assistance Program of Canadian Heritage, and from the government of Canada through the National Archives of Canada and the Canadian Council of Archives. The McCord also wishes to thank Sygraf and Aptilon (formerly Media Renaissance) for their generous contributions to the McCord's new web site.

Visit the McCord Museum's new web site at:

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David Rollins (514) 398-7100, ext. 229

The McCord wishes to acknowledge the support of the Heritage Canada Museums Assistance Program, the Quebec Ministry of Culture and Communications and the Arts Council of the Montreal Urban Community.