Raymond Priestley Lantern Slides

The University of Melbourne Archives (UMA) has recently digitised the Department of Geology Collection (1980.0030) which comprises several thousand glass plate negatives an extensive collection of lantern slides pertaining to geology, and teaching slide sets. Within this collection there is a discrete set of 1,339 lantern slides which were used by Sir Raymond Edward Priestley (geologist, polar explorer and first salaried Vice Chancellor of the University) during his Australian lectures on polar exploration.

The images are available from the University of Melbourne Archives Image Catalogue. To access the entire collection, select 'Raymond Priestley lantern slides' in the 'Collection Name' drop-down menu in the 'Detailed' search tab, then click on search.

Priestley participated in two Antarctic expeditions: first, the British Antarctic 'Nimrod' Expedition (1907-1909) led by Ernest Shackleton, where he served as a geologist working in association with Tannatt Edgeworth David and Douglas Mawson; and second, the British Antarctic 'Terra Nova' Expedition (1910-1913) led by Robert Falcon Scott, where Priestley served as meteorologist. Besides the expeditions on which Priestley participated, the set also includes photographs from the Imperial Trans-Antarctic 'Endurance' Expedition (1914-1916) led by Ernest Shackleton, and the British Arctic Air Route Expedition (1930-1931) led by HG Watson.

"The Zwar the acting-President made a little speech of welcome and I gave my general Antarctic lantern lecture. The lecture, though I say it myself, was good, and was very well received. I find that with less slides - and I only showed 50 - and after not having given it for some months, it comes fresher and easier, besides which I had made some changed in the slides which also altered the narrative.

3 May 1935. University of Melbourne Archives, Raymond Priestley collection (1973.0079) 'Australian Diary' 27 February - 30 June 1935 (item 1/2).

The slides complement the existing Raymond Edward Priestley collection held by the UMA, which contains his Australian diaries that make mention of the illustrated lantern slide lectures. According to the diaries, Priestley travelled with three sets of slides for use in his lectures, predominantly given in Melbourne and regional Victoria. Topics included general Antarctica, Scott's expedition, Quest of the South Pole, Psychological Aspects of Polar Exploration, Polar Ice, Shackleton's Expedition, Polar Animal Life and Australian Involvement in the Antarctic.

Some of the photographs are from Pirestley's own camera as well as those by Frank Hurley (photographer); Herbert George Ponting (photographer); George Murray Levick (surgeon); Frank Debenham (geologist); Charles Seymour Wright (physicist); Edward Adrian Wilson (chief of scientific staff and biologist); Henry Cozens (pilot and photographer); Frederick Chapman (surveyor and ornithologist); Alfred Stephenson (chief surveyor); Quintin Riley (meteorologist). A significant number of the photographs; were taken by various unidentified photographers. Additional photographs within the set were sourced by Priestley via illustrations, geographical maps and geological specimens from publications. Originals are located across many other institutions. All photographs are out of copyright as they were created circa 1900-1935.

"In back numbers of the 'Illustrated London News' today I saw a good photograph of pancake ice on the Canadian Thames, and also some very amusing pictures of a Scott episode from a Jubilee film. I should like some time to get copies of theses. The first would make an excellent addition to my lantern slides.

15 July 1935. University of Melbourne Archives, Raymond Priestley collection (1973.0079), 'Australian diary' 1 July - 19 December 1935 (item 1/3).

Priestley hand annotated his slides with a numbered sequence (on the paper frame), but there are several which are printed or not numbered. The former are numbered up to 4066; however the set at UMA is incomplete. In total, UMA holds 1,339 slides; an entry in Priestley's diary sheds some light on what happened to the remainer of his original set.

"I found some time this afternoon, however, to start on the 'weeding' of my lantern slide collection. I shall never give historical lectures again so I have determined to hand over the majority of the slides to the Geology department here and only take back one small cabinet fill from which, with the others in my lecture boxes, I can make up half a dozen different lectures of general interest.

1 November 1937. University of Melbourne Archives, Raymond Priestley collection (1973.0079), 'Australian diary', volume 10 (item 1/3).

By Emily Jane Lochowicz and Christine Elias, Project Archivists, University of Melbourne Archives.