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magic lantern showLovers swing over the city on bell clappers, defend an Indian princess from the ghosts of Famine and Fever, battle rampaging billy goats, turn marble statues to living flesh, rescue Maidens-Fair from the Fearsome Fire, and send “Vinegar Valentines” to the people they hate.

It’s all from an age before television and movies, when the Victorians mixed boisterous fun and touching pathos in their Valentine’s entertainment. Now The American Magic-Lantern Theater has recreated a gay nineties “Victorian Valentine Show” that captures the wonder and hilarity of the period. The SDSU Library is presenting two performances—one at 10 a.m. and the other at 7 p.m.—on February 14 to celebrate both Valentine’s Day and the library’s magic lantern exhibit, “Sources of Wonder: The Homer and Betty Peabody Magic Lantern Collection.” The performances, which are appropriate for adults and children 6 and above, will be held in Room LL108, and admission is free.

The show uses an antique “magic-lantern”—the multimedia projector of 100 years ago. The lantern rapidly projects spectacular color slides on a movie screen. The slides, many of them animated, illustrate Victorian Valentine stories, songs, and comedy. They’re dramatized by a costumed showman, singers, musicians, and by the audience, which provides the sound effects, claps, stomps, and joins in chants and sing-alongs.

For more information, email


Magic lanternBefore television and motion pictures—before even filmstrips and slide projectors—magic lanterns entertained and educated people by projecting colorful and fantastic images on walls and screens. From the late 18th century through the early 20th century, showmen and conjurers traveled from town to town, their lanterns strapped to their back, performing in taverns, barns, homes, auditoriums, and churches.

Outside of antique stores and museums, magic lanterns are now scarce, but the San Diego State University Library and Information Access has a sizeable collection of these fascinating devices, as well as more than 4,000 glass slides. Through June 29, 2012, you can experience the marvel of magic lanterns at the library’s exhibit titled “Sources of Wonder: The Homer and Betty Peabody Magic Lantern Collection.” The lanterns and slides on display in the library’s Donor Hall were donated by Betty and Homer Peabody, for whom the collection is named.

magic lantern slide
The exhibit features around 30 professional, toy, and domestic lanterns dating from the late 19th to early 20th centuries and a large sampling of the different types and themes of slides, including caricature and comic slides, narrative slides, medical slides, elementary education slides, travel slides, temperance slides, and advertisement slides. It also includes a case displaying the different types of slides, including mechanical slides, as well as chromolithographic, photographic, and hand painted.

In conjunction with the exhibit, the American Magic-Lantern Theater will perform “A Victorian Valentine Show” on February 14. The show will be held at 7 p.m. in Room LL108 of the SDSU Library, and admission is free.

For more information about the collection and exhibit, please contact Special Collections at (619) 594-6791 or visit the online magic lantern exhibit. For exhibit hours, visit the Hours page on the library’s Website.

Did You Fall in Love in Love Library?Many people fall in love during college, but how many people can say they fell in love in Love? That’s what the SDSU Library and Information Access would like to find out—how many people fell in love while visiting the Malcolm A. Love Library.

The Malcolm A. Love Library was named for San Diego State University’s fourth president, Malcolm A. Love, who served from 1952 to 1971. One of the two buildings comprising the Library and Information Access, “Love Library,” as it’s commonly known, was completed in 1971 and now houses many of the library’s book and periodicals collections.

Last year, Love Library celebrated its 40th anniversary. To honor this milestone, people who have “fallen in love in Love Library” are being asked to submit their stories. While some people have tales of finding “true love” in Love Library, the contest doesn’t focus exclusively on romantic love. Stories of friendships made or of “falling in love” with learning, with SDSU, or with the library itself are encouraged.

“The library is the most important learning environment outside of the classroom, but the library is also an essential setting for the social connections students make—connections that can last a lifetime,” said Gale S. Etschmaier, dean of the SDSU Library and Information Access.

The stories will be posted to a special page on the library’s Website, and a winner will be selected by a panel of judges. The winning entry will be announced at a reception held on February 14, 2012, at 6 p.m. in Room LL108 of the SDSU Library. Prizes include romantic dinners-for-two at area restaurants, including 1500 Ocean at the Hotel Del Coronado. All entrants are invited to the reception, which will feature refreshments, live music, and a magic lantern show at 7 p.m. performed by the American Magic-Lantern Theater. The lantern show, titled “A Victorian Valentine Show,” is in conjunction with the library’s magic lantern exhibit, which is on display in the library’s Donor Hall.

The deadline to submit stories is February 9, 2012. Submissions should be 500 words or less and can be mailed to Found Love, San Diego State University Library, 5500 Campanile Drive, San Diego, CA 92182-8050; emailed to or entered through the Found Love Web page. For more information, please visit the event Web page or the library’s main Website.

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