Preserving and showcasing the photographs taken by Samuel Hurst Seager, architect of New Zealand’s First World War battlefield memorials in France, Belgium and Turkey.
‘Illuminations and Commemorations’ celebrates the work of Samuel Hurst Seager (1855–1933) as New Zealand’s WWI battlefield memorial architect from 1920 to 1925. The project focuses on a set of over 100 lantern slides that Seager produced while documenting the design, construction and unveiling of the battlefield memorials at Longueval and Le Quesnoy in France, Messines and Gravenstafel in Belgium and Chunuk Bair in Turkey.
A keen photographer, Seager took many opportunities to record the progress at each of the five memorials. Along with images of the construction, there are photographs of other contemporary Great War monuments and cemeteries that played a large part in his research.
There are three stages of the project:
- Re-housing and digitising the lantern slides
- Promoting the slides and Seager’s contribution to memorialisation with an exhibition of selected photographs from the slides and a symposium that examines visual and material cultures of remembrance after the Great War.
- Creating a website to make available the digitised lantern slides to all.
Lantern Slide Views
Also known as glass plate negatives, lantern slides are a fragile photographic format that are basically the predecessor of plastic 35mm negatives. A photographic emulsion was sandwiched between two thin sheets of glass that were bound together with tape. Images were then projected using a magic lantern that was powered by candles or gas, functioning in a similar way to the digital projector.
When Seager returned to New Zealand in 1925 he gave lectures around the country using the lantern slides and showing audiences how the efforts of New Zealanders had been commemorated at the sites of the battlefields.
In 1928 he gave his collection of 4000 lantern slides and his architectural library to Canterbury College School of Art. After nearly a century, this project aims to give the lantern slides best-practice care they require and preservation of their data via digitisation.