California Mission Lantern Slides

Dublin Core


California Mission Lantern Slides


Missions California


This set of lantern slides was acquired by the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation in 2018 from the Oberlin College Archives. Lantern slides are positive film images sandwiched between two pieces of glass and wrapped with black tape to secure them. These slides were designed to be projected on a wall through a variety of "Magic Lanterns," which were the precursors to the carousel projectors we know today. We have scanned and digitized a selection of the slides to share with the public.

The collection is mostly a study of both interior and exterior views of most of the California missions, from San Diego de Alcala to San Francisco Solano. Though the photos are not dated, their subject matter indicates that they were taken sometime between 1900 and the 1930s, after the missions fell into ruins but before various reconstruction and conservation projects began in earnest. There is no indication of who took the photographs, as is often the case with lantern slides that were commercially produced.

As a collection, the slides are an interesting study of mission architecture: we can observe the various styles of the missions, such as neoclassical and Baroque. They also provide a larger context for the missions as they appeared in the early twentieth century: distressed and ruined by neglect, earthquakes, weather, and human hands. They also provide a before-and-after comparison to study the preservation movement and efforts to reconstruct the missions in the first half of the twentieth century.


Presidio Research Center


Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation




Laurie Hannah, Chris Ervin




Lantern slides



Collection Items

Mission Santa Inés
Ruin of a wall and colonnade arch

Mission San Gabriel Arcángel
View of bell tower before 1931 when the top bell was replaced

Mission San Francisco de Asís<br /><br />
View of cemetery outside the chapel

Mission Santa Inés Mills<br /><br />
Looking over the top of the fulling mill to the mission up on the hill

Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa street view<br /><br />
View of mission façade from the street with cars and storefronts

Mission San Luis Rey de Francía<br /><br />
Bell tower and façade with car in front

Mission San Juan Capistrano bell wall with four bells
View of bell wall with four bells

Mission La Purísima Concepción<br /><br />
Mission wall, buttress, and colonnade pillars in ruins; image taken from west end

Mission San Gabriel Arcángel
Altar and statuary

Mission San Diego de Alcalá
Deteriorating façade of chapel

Mission Dam, Santa Barbara<br /><br />
Dam and bridge located at Santa Barbara Botanic Garden
View all 24 items

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