Since 1854, the GRPM has provided accessible educational content to the people of West Michigan. Beginning in the early 20th century, under the leadership of Museum Director Frank DuMond, the GRPM began an ambitious program to create a huge library of educational outreach programs. At that time, one of the most effective and compelling ways to present historical, scientific, and cultural information to audiences, especially students, was through shows of dramatic and colorful magic lantern slides.
The GRPM created and purchased thousands of these slides on topics as disparate as “Weaving in the South American Highlands”, “The French Revolution and Napoleon”, “How our Homes are Lighted” and “Lumbering in Michigan”. They were made available in presentations at the Museum and through a checkout system where local teachers could use them in their own classrooms. This collection is comprised of 160 of these curated magic lantern slideshows, consisting of about 6,000 slides, and another approximately 8,000 loose slides.
In 2020, the GRPM was awarded a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to digitize and catalog 5,000 of the rare and fragile magic lantern slides in this collection.