Kent-MOMI Vision Statement

Joss Marsh and David Francis


Vision Statement

Exploration.  Creation.  Entertainment.  Research.

The Kent Museum of the Moving Image will not be a museum, an archive, a research library, an entertainment venue or a hands-on exploratorium: it will be all of these at once.  Located in the centre of the charming seaside town of Deal, but with national and international connections to research centres in Britain, Europe, and the USA, Kent-MOMI will seek to serve both families in search of an entertaining and informative day out, and students, scholars, and researchers of all types and ages seeking an in-depth intellectual experience.

The mission of Kent-MOMI is to immerse visitors and researchers in the history and pleasure of the visual spectacles of the past, not only cinema but the whole array of optical toys, tricks, and experiments that gave birth to the cinema, pre-eminently the magic lantern–for nearly 240 years before the first film was projected, 1659-1895, the most important entertainment, medium of instruction, and “machine of wonder” in the Western world.  The Museum will bring the Victorian era to the 21st century, by combining 19th-century artefacts with present-day technology in its display and exhibition practices, and by forwarding the building of an inter-active digital archive that will allow scholars, students, children, and collectors access to the lost world of the magical magic lantern, in collaboration with Indiana University (USA) and the “Lucerna” group of lantern researchers and collectors.

The Museum will comprise:

Permanent Exhibition Galleries, charting the development of the “screen experience”—the projected and moving image—over the past 350 years, and demonstrating the centrality of the moving and projected image to the history of public performance.  The galleries will incorporate key materials from the important 40,000+-item Francis Collection, assembled over five decades, and combining individual gems, like gleaming lanterns, with panoramic coverage of the history of the screen experience over the past 350 years, through a broad range of materials that give those key objects meaning: 100+ magic lanterns, of all types and sizes, from the grand tri-unnial of the 1890s, to the “phantasmagoria” lantern of the early Victorian horror show, to “dissolving pairs,” to the toy lantern that enchanted and empowered 19th-century children; hand-painted, engraved, photographic, “moving,” “dissolving,” and other slides from the early 1700s to the 1940s (a comprehensive 20,000-slide-strong collection); lantern-show and other Victorian entertainment posters and engravings; lantern-show readings; other hand-written and printed ephemera (an internationally notable collection); zoetropes; thaumatropes; phenakistiscopes; peepshows; vues optiques; silhouettes; dioramas; panoramas; shadowgraphs; transparencies; plate, stereo-, detective, and lantern-slide cameras; daguerreotypes and union cases; stereoscopes and stereocards; 19th-century photographs; cartes-de-visite; photographic jewellery; stanhopes; 35mm wooden-bodied cine-cameras; 8mm, 9.5mm, and 16mm cameras; hand-cranked projectors; combination lantern/projectors; perforators and joiners; equipment catalogues; cinéaste and fan magazines; film posters (a collection particularly strong as regards Ealing Studio); film stills; pressbooks (a rare collection); kinoras (with rolls of paper prints); filoscopes; flick books; toy projectors; Chapliniana (an extensive collection); scripts, notes on uncompleted and little-known projects, and personal items of Jean Renoir; Hitchcockiana; experimental  panoramic and 3-D materials; etc.  Computer displays and digital projections will show materials in “action.”

An Optical Theatre and Special Exhibition Gallery, allowing: the frequent projection of authentic antique glass magic lantern slides, using original Victorian dissolving, bi-unial, and tri-unial (two- and three-lens) lanterns; periodic full-scale magic lanterns shows and performances (e.g. the Charles Dickens Magic Lantern Show, or a Victorian Christmas Show); special exhibitions of materials from the Francis Collection (e.g. lantern-slide Virtual Travel or the visual history of the Fairy Tale); exhibitions of materials from other private collections; exhibitions by local artists; film screenings; special events, conferences, and receptions; and hands-on and creative exploration days that will allow children and their parents to make their own lantern slides and optical toys, and to participate in their presentation.

A Research Centre, open to all serious students of cinema and pre-cinema, under the joint direction of Victorianist and film scholar-teacher Professor Joss Marsh and award-winning film archivist and historian David Francis, O.B.E., stocked with: 2,000 period and modern books about the pre-history of cinema; nearly 4,000 original and modern books on the history of cinema; and pamphlets and magazines covering the whole period of cinema history; as well as the full resources of the Francis Collection.  A limited amount of low-cost accommodation will be available to researchers.  Kent-MOMI will welcome interns from local and international universities, sixth-formers and other young people seeking work experience or assistance with projects, and all local people wishing to advance their knowledge of cinema history and the long history of visuality and the screen experience.  The Research Centre will include a digital suite, where collectors and members of the public can digitize lantern slides and other materials, for personal use and for contribution to the Lucerna database and virtual museum.  Materials in the Francis Collection, many of them rare or unique, but embedded in a collection that gives them context, are of serious interest not only to people interested in cinema and the pre-history of cinema, but to all students of the Victorian era.  Spot collections of lantern slides within the Collection as a whole include (for example) little or unknown materials on: the history of Empire, British Africa, India, and other colonies; American colonial expansionism and the movement West; Natural History; World War One; the history of performance (e.g. of Shakespeare); the history of childhood; visual story-telling (e.g. the lantern-slide adaptation of Gulliver’s Travels and Robinson Crusoe); the history of art; Temperance and religious propaganda of the 19th and early twentieth centuries, including the as-yet-unstudied musical visual phenomenon of the “Service of Song” or “cheap cantata”; the history of performance (including pantomime); etc.  Queries about Collection holdings should be addressed to David Francis, at:

The Museum will also have:  A paved garden, a shop, and a full kitchen.

About the Curators and Creators of Kent-MOMI:

David Francis O.B.E. was for 15 years Curator of the British National Film Archive, where he was one of the two co-founders and builders of the Museum of the Moving Image (MOMI), on the South Bank, and, where he received the O.B.E. for services to film preservation.  Subsequently, 1991 to 2001, he was Chief of the Motion Picture, Broadcasting, and Recorded Sound Division of the Library of Congress, in Washington, D.C.  He is currently a Research Associate of the Department of Communication and Culture at Indiana University, Bloomington, USA.  His many publications include the ground-breaking study Chaplin: Genesis of a Clown (co-authored, 1977), and Museums, Curatorship and the Moving Image Experience (co-authored, 2008).   His work, with Joss Marsh, on the inter-section of magic-lantern performance and research, and on the magic lantern generally, has most recently been supported by a New Frontiers Fellowship from IUB.  He is a founder-member of the Magic Lantern Society of the United Kingdom, and, with Joss, as fellow members of the Magic Lantern Society of the United States and Canada, hosted and directed that society’s bi-enniel Convention, in Bloomington, in 2011.  Mr. Francis and Professor Marsh have most recently mounted magic-lantern lecture-performances at the Greek National Film Archive, the Vienna Filmmuseum, the Cineteca Portuguesa, the Museum of Modern ART (MOMA), New York, the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., the George Eastman House Museum of Photography and Film, Rochester, NY, Yale University, Harvard University Film Archive, Northcourt House, Isle of Wight, and (upcoming in June 2012) the University of Brighton.

Joss Marsh was, until June 2013, Associate Professor of Victorian Studies at Indiana University, Bloomington, and remains an Emeritus Professor of that department, as well as a Research Associate of IU’s Institute for Digital Arts and Humanities and of Wells Library, where she is Senior Consultant Editor of the Victorian Women Writers Project, as well as Director of the Digital Lantern Project.  She is also a faculty member and past Executive Director of the internationally renowned public research Dickens Project, in Santa Cruz, California.  From 1991 to 1998, she worked at Stanford University, where she was proud to receive the Associated Students’ Award for Excellence in Teaching, and has won research awards from the American Council of Learned Societies, Stanford University, Indiana University, California Institute of Technology (where she was a Postdoctoral Fellow), University of California at Santa Barbara (where she took her Ph.D.), and Oxford University (where she took her B.A. and M.Phil.)   She is the author of Word Crimes: Blasphemy, Culture, and Literature in 19th-Century England (U Chicago P, 1998), the forthcoming Starring Charles Dickens (Ashgate, 2014), a new book (with David Francis) on the late-Victorian celebrity author and lantern luminary George R. Sims, and numerous essays on Dickens, Chaplin, the 19th-century novel and film, the history of celebrity, film stardom, Oliver! the musical, Victorian visual culture, and the magic lantern, on which she most recently published “Dickensian ‘Dissolving Views’: The Magic Lantern, Visual Story-Telling, and the Victorian Technological Imagination.”  Her media publications include several Dickens documentaries with the BBC, and radio plays.  Her most recent stage role was Widow Corney, in Oliver!, and she is probably the only female academic in the world to have played Ebenezer Scrooge, in male drag, in a professional theatre.