Trot away from 2020 with our DIY rare holiday phenakistoscope

This holiday season is unlike any other. As we move into a new (and hopefully better) year, the Library wishes you much peace, rest, and health coupled with lighthearted moments of reflection, joy, and discovery.

Once again, we have remixed wintry content from our rare and special collections to bring you something special that you can create in the comfort of your own home – a phenakistoscope featuring a ‘one-horse open sleigh’ moving through the late 19th-century streets of Montreal.

“Bleury Street, Montreal” stereoscopic view. Photograph by J.G. Parks, late 19th century. McGill Rare Books and Special Collections.

A phenakistoscope is an early animation apparatus developed by Belgian physicist Joseph Plateau in 1829. The device is a spinning disc adorned with illustrations attached to a vertical handle. When the disc is spun, a small animation can be seen if you hold it in front of a mirror while looking through the cutout slots.

Make your own phenakistoscope using materials from home and this PDF cutout created by Greg Houston, Digitization Administrator at McGill Library. Not into DIY but still want to see our phenakistoscope come alive? Enjoy this time-lapse demo courtesy of ROAAr’s Jacquelyn Sundberg.

This DIY project is inspired by ROAAr‘s next publication set to launch in March 2021. AMAZE: An A to Z McGill Library Experience (Abécédaire extraordinaire: Ça bouge à McGill) is a pop-up alphabet book for adults with moveable elements (e.g. spinning wheels, pull tabs, flaps) inspired by our Play On! 2020 initiative. This visually exceptional and playful collections engagement tool supports interactivity and encourages readers to play where the knowledge lives – in the McGill Library! Look out for more information about it in the new year. Until then, stay well.

M is for Martlet! A double page spread from AMAZE: An A to Z McGill Library Experience.

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