Going abroad as a Victorian Briton must have been amazing. Trotting round the world, owning most of it, and looking on all that you surveyed with a firmly held conviction of your own innate superiority.
Arthur Boswell did just this in the late Victorian era. On his travels, he built up a collection of 14,000 glass slides later acquired by the local archive in his native Bexley. The highlights are now on display at the Illuminated World exhibition at Hall Place in Bexley, and give a remarkable glimpse of what it must have been like to be a tourist before air travel.
The selection of slides on display from Boswell’s collection will take visitors on a journey across Europe and Africa — illustrating the world as the 19th became the 20th Century. The journey is supplemented by a range of photographs taken by Boswell of his native Kent during the same period.
The exhibition includes a mock-up of the magic lantern booth Boswell would have used. He apparently put on these shows around his home town, allowing his Kentish compatriots a glimpse of a world overseas that most of them would never experience. If you subscribe to the view that the past is a foreign country, Illuminated World offers a curiously similar experience to the modern viewer — a glimpse at fascinating places and another time, tantalisingly out of reach.
The Illuminated World exhibition is being held at Hall Place in Bexley until March 2013. Entrance is included in the general ticket price, adults £7, under 16s/concessions £5, family £20 (2 adults and up to three children).