Bill Douglas Cinema Museum Display

Transporting and Evolving Views: Nineteenth Century Ways of Seeing

Friday 13th August – November 2021

Bill Douglas Display Case

Nineteenth century innovations in visual technologies provided audiences with the opportunity to look again at their world or travel to far off places through popular entertainments. The items in this case provide a small snapshot of the different ways in which audiences could experience the world through the varied forms of panoramas, magic lantern slides and stereoscopic views.

This small display is about how these experiences invited audiences to be active in influencing their own experiences whether that was making choices about where to view from and for how long, or how quickly to unfurl a hand panorama.

Whether it was experiencing an encompassing view at the large rotunda panorama in Leicester Square or unfurling a hand panorama, every one of these forms invited individuals to engage imaginatively with the world. This might involve looking again at your locale or a city you knew well or viewing it as a tourist wishing to choose where you might visit. It might even provide you with a chance to imagine being present at a ceremonial or military event. These popular entertainments offered audiences this opportunity to transport themselves to that place and reevaluate the topography of their own world. In each case they were required to adapt their understanding of what each physical place meant in terms of time and space. Through the many different experiences represented here, the familiar was reimagined or remembered as slightly strange and the strange made more familiar.

This exhibition is one of two curated by the AHRC funded Theatre and Visual Culture in the Long Nineteenth Century project. It is linked to an exhibition at the University of Bristol Theatre Collection entitled The Art of Innovation: Experiencing Nineteenth Century Theatre and Performance, running from late August 2021.


1. Panorama Publicity Handbill: Theatre Royal, Covent Garden / Roberts’ Moving Panorama in Ten Compartments (EXEBD 77257)
Moving panorama were metres of long painted cloth that ran on rollers to give the impression of moving through a landscape. They were both an entertainment in their own right and presented in theatres as part of theatrical spectacles to evoke the viewing experience of a journey. (For more on theatre history visit our other partner archive, the University of Bristol Theatre Collection).

Find out more about what this item reveals about Christmas Pantomime’s and scene painters careers in Jim Davis’ blog post.

2. Panorama Programme: Panorama, Leicester Square / The island of Elba (EXEBD 17415)
Large rotunda panorama were the first panorama craze. These large canvases surrounded an audience and were dressed with props to give those visiting them the sense that they were immersed in a view. Two seperate panorama were provided for one ticket price in one large space and one smaller space within the rotunda building.

3. Season Ticket to Panorama (EXEBD 77178)
The fact you could buy a season ticket to the rotunda panorama suggests that the experience was one you might like to enjoy repeatedly. There are accounts of people pointing out areas they visited as tourists, as well as mention of eerie silence, suggesting that the panorama might have been enjoyed alone and in groups. Battles were often depicted in panorama and this Battle of Waterloo ticket is a prime example of how such entertainments covered current events.

4. An Album Containing Photographs of a 1912 Myriorama Show on the Sinking of the Titanic Entitled ‘The Loss of the Titanic’, probably presented by John R. Poole (#38781)
Moving panorama were not just visual experiences. Vital to the popularity of many moving panorama were the showman who highlighted points of interest and turned the event into a dynamic and exciting entertainment that transported audiences to another time and place. The text, presumably Poole might have spoken is hand written below the photograph and reads: ‘It was as tho’ some great hand were pushing her down.’

5. Moving Panorama Programme: Joseph Poole’s Myriorama (EXEBD 17869)
This panorama programme advertises a travelling show that combined moving panorama and variety entertainments towards the end of the ninteenth century. Fancy getting a closer look of what’s inside? Then use your phone to take a look at our one-take film of the hand panorama action:

Hand panorama of the Coronation IV unfurlingof George

6. Three Tickets to Poole’s Myriorama at Ipswich (EXEBD 78529)
These beautiful tickets from Poole’s Myriorama’s Ipswich performances give a sense of the range of places you might expect to be transported to: the Scottish Highlands and exotic lands. Entertainments were about pleasure, but the text on the ticket and image of a non-European head connect the entertainments to the colonising impetus of Empire.

7. Souvenir Hand Panorama of Coronation of George IV (EXEBD 69264)
Audiences could control their own experiences through unfurling a hand panorama, by choosing how long they took looking at each aspect depicted.

8. Panorama of Ben Nevis – Colour Book (EXEBD 69340)
Improvements in printing meant that books became one of a number of popular means of permitting panoramic views to be enjoyed at leisure in the home.

9. Stereoscopic Viewer with a Card of the Interior of Exeter Cathedral: the Nave Looking East (EXEBD 62055)
There is a certain pleasure in looking again at our own locale, in environments we know well. Looking at Exeter Cathedral through a stereoscope might have felt similar to seeing your own city on television. This gif gives a slight impression of the 3D effect stereoscopes provided:

Gif made from the two stereoscopic view images of the interior of Exeter Cathedral

10. Magic Lantern Slide of Orange trees (EXEBD 64428)
Magic lanterns could be enjoyed in the home or as part of public entertainments run by a lanternist whose patter added to the enjoyment of the event. Many of the same themes seen in wider entertainments ran through magic lantern slides. This slide is an example of arm-chair travel to an exotic location such as Seville.

Light shining through magic lantern slide of orange groves

11. Magic Lantern Slide of the Exterior of Exeter Cathedral 64016
You’ve had a chance to look at the inside of the Cathedral, why not look again at the inside.

Light shining through Exeter Cathedral exterior magic lantern slide

Why not let us know what you thought about this exhibition by tweeting us @theatviscult or writing a message via our contact page.

Visit the Bill Douglas Cinema Museum website to find out more about their fantastic resources on the British history of the moving image. Although they are predominantly known as a cinema museum, their holdings include pre-cinema moving images and theatrical ephemera such as playbills, tickets and carte de visite.

The University of Bristol Theatre Collection display ‘The Art of Innovation: Experiencing Nineteenth Century Theatre and Performance‘ runs until early 2022.