The Media of Mediumship
Encountering the Material Culture of Modern Occultism in Britain's Science, Technology, and Magic Collections
Encountering the Material Culture of Modern Occultism in Britain's Science, Technology, and Magic Collections

Programme of Events

Recorded events will be posted to our YouTube channel.

30 June 2021, 6–7 pm | Digital Lecture | online

‘Spiritualism, Photography and the Search for Ectoplasm’, Shannon Taggart

In this talk, award-winning photographer Shannon Taggart discusses the history of spirit photography and its influence on her own documentary work with the Lily Dale Spiritualist Assembly, recently published in her Fulgur Press book Séance. An artist based in St. Paul, MN, Taggart’s photographs explore the intersection between photography, and the representation of belief. Her work has been exhibited and featured internationally, including within the publications TIME, New York Times Magazine, Discover, and Newsweek. It has been recognized by Nikon, Magnum Photos and the Inge Morath Foundation, American Photography and the Alexia Foundation for World Peace. Taggart’s monograph, SÉANCE, was listed as one of TIME magazine’s ‘Best Photobooks of 2019.

All ‘Media of Mediumship’ events are free and open to the public.

Watch the recording of this event on our YouTube channel.

21 September 2021, 6 pm | Launch Event | Short Film | online

‘Séance: A View through the Veil’, Ashton Carter Magic and Dr Nik Taylor, in collaboration with David Crowley (Steel Films)

Dr Nik Taylor and Ashton Carter will bring their theatrical experience ‘Séance: A View through the Veil’ to film for the first time! Watch as they recreate a selection of spirit contact vignettes where guests would appear to glimpse through the veil and into the world of spirit. Using the techniques and technologies of both the fraudulent medium and the secular magician they reveal the thinking behind some of the most popular methods of the day.

Just what might you encounter in a parlour séance of the Late Victorian Period? How were sitters convinced of spirit contact? Why were people fooled? Join our guides to safely journey to the land of spirit to find out.

Register for this free event here.

30 September 2021, 6:30–8pm | Live Talk | Café Scientifique, National Science and Media Museum, Bradford

‘Fairies Photographed! The Cameo Camera and the Case of the Cottingley Fairies’, Professor Christine Ferguson

In December 1920, The Strand Magazine published a series of sensational photographs taken by two young girls from Cottingley that allegedly showed real-life fairies dancing at the bottom of their garden. Their authenticity was vouched by no less a person than world-famous Sherlock Holmes creator and spiritualist Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The images immediately triggered a fierce public debate: were they evidence of the existence of otherworldly nature spirits, of the technical craft and duplicity of their creators, or of the suspect nature of photography itself? The cameras used to produce the pictures, along with Elsie Wright’s famous 1983 “Confession” letter, are today held in the collection of the National Science and Media Museum.

In this talk, Professor Christine Ferguson, Chair in English Studies at the University of Stirling and Principal Investigator on the ‘Media of Mediumship’ project, discusses what these objects can tell us about the long-standing relationship between technological innovation and alternative spiritual belief in modern Britain.

This talk will be delivered in hybrid format: bookings can be made to attend in person, or to watch online. All ‘Media of Mediumship’ events are free and open to the public.

Booking information can be found here, on the NSMM website.

31 October 2021, 7–8 pm | Radiophonic Montage | Resonance FM 104.4 FM

‘Mental Radio’, produced by Aleks Kolkowski and kitt price, to be broadcast on Resonance FM 104.4

Aleksander Kolkowski and kitt price recreate the experience of ’thinking-in’, when thousands of listeners engaged in radio telepathy experiments during the 1920s and 30s. British and American parapsychologists insisted that broadcasting was simply a means to access minds in the mass, but European investigators claimed they had captured the sound of ‘brain waves’ using  radio equipment. MENTAL RADIO reanimates the archived protocols of mass telepathy, mixing the signals received by listeners with the soundscapes of the early twentieth century’s radiating brain.

November 2021 (launch date TBC) | Serial Radio Drama | BBC Radio Suffolk

‘Radio from the Dark Side: A Trilogy of Terror!’, produced by Professor Richard Hand in collaboration with the National Edgar Allan Poe Theatre

‘A Trilogy of Terror!’ will present three brand new audio plays in the style of classic horror radio, featuring the adventures of Zachariah Jaeger, journalist and investigator of the paranormal, as he embarks on adventures into the dark side. The plays are based on fiction held in the Harry Price Library, adapting neglected masterpieces of the weird and uncanny by John Metcalf, Christopher Blayre and Arthur Conan Doyle. The trilogy will feature adventures on both sides of the Atlantic as Zach Jaeger investigates weird and terrifying phenomena at great personal peril…

Richard Hand (University of East Anglia) is leading this international project with a creative team in Norfolk, the acclaimed National Edgar Allan Poe Theatre on the Air in the USA, and the avant-garde composer and soundscape designer Seesar in China. The plays will be featured on BBC Upload in October and will also be the subject of a BBC audio documentary. 

More information to come.

27 October 2021, 10 am–4 pm | Family Activity | Bradford Science Festival, The Kodak Gallery Drawing Room, National Science and Media Museum, Bradford

‘What Noise do Ghosts Make?’, workshop produced by Ashton Carter Magic and Dr Nik Taylor

Throughout history ghost stories have described the noises ghosts make, from the rattling of the chains of Jacob Marley, the moaning of the white ladies that roam our great houses to the classic ‘Boo’ of the Scooby Doo spooks.

But do ghosts actually make a noise? History is filled with people who claim to have created inventions to help us ‘hear’ ghosts, they range from the very simple to the highly technical, but how do they work? 

Come and join Dr Nik Taylor and Ashton Carter and explore the strange world of ghosts, technology and acoustics in this hands-on and fun Halloween experience. Try various devices as we explore how sound is made and try our hand at being ghosts and ghostbusters!

This free drop-in experience is suitable for ages 6+. Free tickets will be required for entry into the museum and will be available here on 27 September 2021.

13–16 November 2021 | Sound Installation | Being Human Festival, Court Room, Senate House, London

‘The Laboratory of Psychical Research’, produced by Aleks Kolkowski, kitt price, and Laurence Cliffe, hosted by Senate House Library, as part of the Being Human Festival

The splendid wooden panelled Court Room at Senate House will play host to a reimagining of the National Laboratory of Psychical Research established in 1925 by the celebrated paranormal investigator Harry Price.

Inside the room you will encounter laboratory equipment and toy instruments that were used to detect the activity of unseen psychic forces. Using your smartphone and headphones via a specially created app, you will hear evidence of spirit activity as recorded in laboratory notes held in the Harry Price Collection at Senate House Library. You may even hear the ghost of Harry Price himself!

The Laboratory of Psychical Research is a new sound installation created by Aleksander Kolkowski, kitt price, and Laurence Cliffe produced especially for the Being Human Festival. It will include one live performance by the artists each day.

Visit the Being Human website.

24 November 2021, 6–9pm | Live Talk | Lates, Science Museum, London

‘Making the Invisible Visible: Occultists and X-Ray Technologies’, Emma Merkling

‘Is the invisible visible?’ was the first question posed to Wilhelm Röntgen in an interview conducted shortly after his sensational discovery of X-rays in 1895. This new technology enabled the eye to penetrate solid flesh, revealing the living skeleton hidden within. In the ghostly radiograph created by Röntgen of his wife’s hand, dark bones emerge eerily out of a mass of translucent, grey flesh. The image is spooky — but does the spectral connection go deeper? This talk by ‘Media of Mediumship’ team member Emma Merkling of the Courtauld Institute of Art explores the occult histories of X-ray technology in Britain. How was radiography’s piercing ‘eye’ used by occultists — and their challengers — to see through external appearances and reveal the hidden realities within?

Registration information to come.

27 January 2022, 6:30–8pm | Live Talk | Café Scientifique, National Science and Media Museum, Bradford

‘Caught on Camera: Reflections on William Hope and the Crewe Circle Spirit Photographs’, Dr Efram Sera-Shriar

During the opening decades of the twentieth century, William Hope was a well-respected medium amongst the spiritualist community in Britain, with positive endorsements from major scientific figures such as the chemist William Crookes and the author and physician Arthur Conan Doyle. He was often seen as one of the few mediums to be able to produce authentic spirit photographs. However, all that changed in late February of 1922 when a team of investigators led by the famous British psychical researcher Harry Price claimed to have caught Hope cheating during one of his sittings and discovered that he was swapping blank photographic plates with ones containing existing images on them that appeared to be depictions of spirit entities. Hope was publicly exposed as a fraud, and what ensued was a major debate between believers and sceptics over the legitimacy of the medium’s alleged spirit photography. Using surviving materials from the Senate House Library and Science Museum Group collections, including photographs, private correspondence, published sources, and camera technologies, this paper will explore this story, and reflect on what makes for trustworthy evidence in investigations of extraordinary phenomena.

Registration information to come.