10 Years of Lantern

The Media History Digital Library (MHDL) catalog currently includes 2,899,519 pages of digitized books and magazines from the histories of film, broadcasting, and recorded sound. All free and open access. All ethically and legally sourced, scanned from the public domain or included with permission of the rights holder.

Since 2013, Lantern has provided full-text search functionality to explore and browse that expansive collection. In late July of 2013, the first version of Lantern made its public debut, providing easy access to thousands of books and magazines related to the histories of film, broadcasting, and recorded sound. The electrifying response of that first week online has motivated us to keep improving the service and collections ever since.

As a non-profit initiative, your support is what enables us to keep building our collections. Please consider making a donation to support the Media History Digital Library.
Thanks to the generosity of an anonymous donor, all contributions made in August 2023 will be matched 1-to-1. If you contribute $100, we'll receive $200 to help us continue scanning magazines and developing new ways to search, visualize, and explore the MHDL.

300+ users / day

Every day, hundreds of individual people use the Lantern search platform. Based on Google Analytics estimates, over 5,000 unique users visited the Lantern website each month.

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2899519 pages

There are nearly 3 million pages available to search using Lantern. These pages come from over 8,000 individual volumes spanning numerous decades. Lantern searches content in multiple languages, including English, Persian, German, French, and more. We're continually scanning materials and adding more magazines, trade papers, pressbooks, and more into our search index.

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150+ projects

We love hearing about the incredible work that our project has supported! As part of our 10 year celebration, we would like to highlight how scholars, teachers, critics, curators, and fans have used Lantern within their own work. If you are interested in sharing how Lantern has been useful in your own work, please fill out our Lantern Usage Survey.

10 Years of Lantern

Below are some of the highlights and milestones of Lantern’s first decade. Please also see the MHDL Project History and Acknowledgements sections for more about the story, people, and institutions involved in developing this highly collaborative initiative.

Screenshot of a simple website. The title headings read 'lantern beta' and 'the search engine for the media history digital library.'
Lantern Beta

Carl Hagenmaier, Wendy Hagenmaier, Eric Hoyt, and MHDL founder David Pierce set up an Apache Solr search index for the MHDL database, and created the first version of a visual interface for users to run queries on what was then a 100,000 page collection of recently scanned Hollywood trade papers and fan magazines hosted on the Internet Archive.

The prototype of Lantern's first interface, developed in 2011, was built from scratch using HTML, CSS, and PHP.


Lantern Launches

In 2013, Eric Hoyt and his team at UW-Madison launched Lantern, the full-text search platform for the MHDL, now totaling over 700,000 pages thanks to major contributions from the Library of Congress Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation.

The new Lantern interface was built using Ruby on Rails and Blacklight—an open-source project designed as an interface for Apache Solr indexes.

Screenshot of the first public version of the Lantern website. It features a cerulean navigation menu and a grey and orange interactive visualiztion of journal covers.

A selfie image of several people at an academic conference.
Anne Friedberg Innovative Scholarship Award

In 2014, the Society for Cinema and Media Studies awarded Lantern the Anne Friedberg Innovative Scholarship award. This was the first time ever the award went to a digital project instead of a book.

The Lantern team at the 2014 Society for Cinema and Media Studies Conference, Seattle, Washington. From left to right: Kit Hughes, Eric Hoyt, Tony Tran, Andy Myers, Joseph Pomp, Derek Long. Not pictured, but critical to the project's success were Carl Hagenmaier, Wendy Hagenmaier, Anne Helen Petersen, David Pierce, and Peter Sengstock.


2 Million Pages

In 2017, the MHDL reached the milestone of expanding its collection to over 2 million pages. The project also fully moved to the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where it is now part of the Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research (WCFTR).

The WCFTR is one of the world’s major archives of research materials relating to the entertainment industry. One of our current projects is to fully digitize the WCFTR's entire collection of pressbooks, beginning with extensive sets from Warner Bros. and Columbia Pictures. All of the scanned pressbooks will be fully searchable using Lantern.

The logo for the Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research

Eric Hoyt and Kelley Conway looking at an issue of Exhibitors Herald World.
Globalizing and Enhancing the Media History Digital Library

In 2019, the MHDL received a $150,000 Digital Extension Grant from the American Council of Learned Societies in support of the "Globalizing and Enhancing the Media History Digital Library" initiative. The grant funding enabled a number of database and interface improvements, as well as the addition of dozens of non-English language magazines. Thank you to the team, led by Eric Hoyt and Kelley Conway, who worked on this initaitive and whose research will appear in the forthcoming open access book, Global Movie Magazine Networks.


Lantern 2.0

With support from the "Globalizing and Enhancing the Media History Digital Library" grant, the Lantern team worked on major upgrades and launched version 2.0 in July 2022. Sam Hansen worked on updates to Lantern's behind-the-scenes search process and Ben Pettis completed a full redesign of Web interface and its underlying software.

The new website features a new dynamic landing page that automatically displays recently scanned pages, as well as improved layout and display on mobile devices. Behind the scenes, we rebuilt the database and search index to improve our automatic processing of new metadata and increase how quickly search results are retrieved.

Screenshot of the new version of the Lantern website. It features a cerulean navigation menu and a row of images of magazine and pressbook covers. The Lantern logo is featured prominently at the center of the page.

Screenshot of a Zoom presentation of a slideshow. The title is 'Teaching film history with the Media History Digital Library.' At the right of the screen are 4 rectangles showing the webcams of the presenters.
Online Workshops

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the MHDL team organized Zoom workshops for educators, researchers, students, and other film enthusiasts to discuss their use of Lantern and the MHDL. Video recordings of these workshops are available online.

In a workshop moderated by Eric Hoyt (University of Wisconsin-Madison and Director), Liz Clarke (Brock University), Paul Monticone (Rowan University), and Jocelyn Szczepaniak-Gillece (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee) shared the assignments they developed. Their sample assignments are also available on the MHDL's Teaching webpage.

The next year, members of the MHDL development and metadata processing teams shared several recent milestones and achievements from the project, such as the newly-updated Lantern featuring a redesigned interface and faster back-end search processing.


Lantern Turns 10!

In July 2023, we celebrated the 10 year anniversary of Lantern's first public launch. Since July 2013, we've been continually encouraged by enthusiastic responses from our users. We love hearing about how our project has been a part of your work. We're incredibly proud to know that Lantern has helped countless scholars, teachers, critics, curators, and fans complete their work. We can't wait to see what the next 10 years have in store!

As a non-profit initiative, your support is what enables us to keep building our collections. Please consider making a donation to support the Media History Digital Library.

10 Years of Lantern

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