Lecture by Russell Potter

Russell Potter has been an amazing source of support throughout this project, and was so kind to give a Salon Lecture on the topic of Arctic Spectacle. Thank you to the Providence Athenaeum who helped make this event possible!

SALON: RI College Professor of English Russell Potter on “‘Travel by Pictorial Means’: Victorian Virtualities of the Arctic Regions.” Potter, author of Arctic Spectacles: The Frozen North in Visual Culture 1818-1875, will illustrate some of the ways in which Victorian audiences encountered the perils of the Arctic, seeming to accompany polar explorers via a variety of visual and mechanical contrivances, among them the Panorama, the Diorama, the Moving Panorama, and the Magic Lantern. Original engravings, handbills, and advertisements of these shows will be accompanied by images from books and lantern slides of the period, including some from the Athenaeum’s collections. The talk will conclude with a visit to one of the last, and most ambitious of polar spectacles, Carl Hagenbeck’s Eismeer- Panorama of 1896, which featured live polar bears and seals, with predator and prey separated by deep ditches hidden from the spectators.


Russell A. Potter is professor of English and Media Studies at Rhode Island College,where he specializes in nineteenth-century visual spectacles such as panoramas, dioramas,and magic lantern shows depicting the Arctic regions. He appeared in “Arctic Passage:Prisoners of the Ice,” a 2004 episode of PBS’s NOVA, and his book, Arctic Spectacles:The Frozen North in Visual Culture, 1818-1875 was published in 2007 by the University of Washington Press. He is also the author of a novel, PYG: The Memoirs of Toby, the Learned Pig, published by Penguin in 2012.



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