Historical information

Taken in approximately 1900, this glass slide captures an image of two Mayday Hills Mental Asylum nurses. Also known as the Beechworth Lunatic Asylum, Mayday Hills was officially opened on the twenty-fourth of October 1867 and was commissioned following lobbying from Beechworth Municipal Council concerning a need for better living conditions for certain individuals confined to the town's gaol. These individuals, as well as many others who were brought from surrounding institutions, exhibited behaviours that were deemed to be unfit for mainstream society. At its peak, the asylum consisted of sixty-seven buildings and housed over twelve-hundred patients and five-hundred staff. At the time of Australian Federation in 1901 - just a year after this photograph was taken - the patient population numbered six-hundred and seventy-four. The designated site of the institution was chosen due to its scenery and altitude. It was argued that these picturesque surroundings would assist in curing the hospital's patients of their ailments.

The asylum was officially closed in 1996. It is listed on the Victorian Heritage Register as being architecturally significant. The extensive complex of buildings are examples of Italianate-style, which is strongly associated with asylums of the 1860s - the period in which construction of this particular asylum began. Today the asylum offers tours to visitors: both daytime history tours and night-time ghost tours.

Lantern slides, sometimes called 'magic lantern' slides, are glass plates on which an image has been secured for the purpose of projection. Glass slides were etched or hand-painted for this purpose from the Eighteenth Century but the process became more popular and accessible to the public with the development of photographic-emulsion slides used with a 'Magic Lantern' device in the mid-Nineteenth Century. Photographic lantern slides comprise a double-negative emulsion layer (forming a positive image) between thin glass plates that are bound together. A number of processes existed to form and bind the emulsion layer to the base plate, including the albumen, wet plate collodion, gelatine dry plate and woodburytype techniques. Lantern slides and magic lantern technologies are seen as foundational precursors to the development of modern photography and film-making techniques.


This glass slide is socially and historically significant as it is representative of the lives of the nurses who worked at Beechworth's Mayday Hills Asylum in the early twentieth century.

Physical description

Thin translucent sheet of glass with a portrait image printed on the front. It is held together by metal strips to secure the edges of the slide.