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Moving and Projected-Image Entertainment in the South-West 1820-1914

Dr John Plunkett and Dr Joe Kember of the Department of English were awarded funding of £197,000 from the AHRC for a three-year project, which began in October 2007, on the exhibition of moving and projected-image entertainment in the South-West from 1820-1914.

Prior to the advent of film, panoramas, dioramas, peepshows, and the magic lantern, played a key role in popular entertainment. Their influence has been underestimated though because there has been little systematic study of the exhibition of these entertainments outside London. Through a regional study, the project aimed to demonstrate the extensive national distribution of moving and projected images between 1820 and 1914.

As a whole, the project aimed to broaden our understanding of their influence upon the visual and performance culture of the period, and in particular the development of film.  The importance of the provincial exhibition of moving and projected-image entertainment was demonstrated through a series of case studies of South-West locations (Exeter, Bristol, Plymouth, and selected north and south Devon sea-side resorts), conducted by the research team. To disseminate the research from the project, a conference and temporary exhibition at the Bill Douglas Centre for the History of Cinema and Popular Culture took place in the summer of 2009, while a co-authored book presenting the research findings is forthcoming.