2 PhD positions ‘Projecting Knowledge – The Magic Lantern as a Tool for Mediated Science Communication in the Netherlands, 1880-1940’ (deadline 24 August 2018)

You will be participating in the project ‘Projecting Knowledge – The Magic Lantern as a Tool for Mediated Science Communication in the Netherlands, 1880-1940’, which will study the use of the magic lantern in science communication in the Netherlands, 1880-1940, and thereby elucidate the role of this important visual medium in the transmission and dissemination of knowledge. The project is funded by the NWO Open Competition programme and will be conducted at the Institute for Cultural Inquiry (ICON), Faculty of Humanites, at Utrecht University, the Netherlands. Principal Investigator (PI) is Frank Kessler.

The project provides for two PhD positions for the following subprojects (1.0 fte each):

PhD1 “Science for the People”: This subproject will study public illustrated lectures on scientific and scholarly topics, starting from advertisements, announcements and articles in digitised newspapers to establish the range of subjects treated by the lecturers. It will identify locations and organising institutions, speakers, and the groups of audiences addressed as well as try to determine which kinds of slides were shown. The central research question of this PhD project will be: How was public knowledge transmission and science communication mediated through the optical lantern in illustrated lectures organised in the Netherlands between 1880 and 1940, what subjects were treated, which audiences were addressed and what different types of speakers are to be distinguished?

PhD2 “Visual Instruction”: This subproject will study the use of lantern slides in academic teaching and study its role as a teaching tool. Visual instruction, in line with theories about learning formulated by pedagogues in the second half of the 19th century, became increasingly important in schools, but also in universities. The possibility to project visual material rather than rely on illustrations in books or passing pictures around, had an impact on teaching practice. The central research question of this subproject will be: How was the optical lantern used in academic teaching in the Netherlands between 1880 and 1940 and how did it affect pedagogical practices in different disciplines?
The project will cooperate with a magic lantern-related project in Belgium, in which the PI participates as an external partner: B-magic. The Magic Lantern and Its Cultural Impact as a Visual Mass Medium in Belgium. There will be joint activities of both projects.

Tasks for the PhD candidates will include:

  • completion and defense of a PhD thesis within four years; regular presentation of intermediate research results at workshops and conferences;
  • publication of at least two articles in journals or edited volumes;
  • co-organisation of project workshops and conferences;
  • participation in all project-related activities, including outreach activities;
  • participation in selected training programmes offered by the Graduate School and the National Research School (RMeS);
  • PhD candidates are expected to contribute 10% of their appointment to teaching.


  • a (soon to be completed) (research) MA degree in a relevant discipline (Media Studies, History of Science, History of Education);
  • excellent English oral proficiency, academic writing and presentation skills;
  • ability to read primary source material in Dutch (or commitment to acquire this ability);
  • ability to meet deadlines and work both as an independent researcher and as a team member;
  • good organisational, social and communication skills.

Conditions of employment

Two PhD positions are offered at 1.0 FTE each, starting 1 November 2018 at the latest, initially for a period of 18 months. Upon good performance and a positive evaluation, the contract will be extended for the remaining period of 30 months (4 years in total). The gross monthly salary starts at €2,266 in the first year, and ends at €2,897 in the fourth year, on a full-time basis.

Salaries are supplemented with a holiday bonus of 8% and and a year-end allowance of 8.3% per year. In addition, Utrecht University offers excellent secondary conditions, including an attractive retirement scheme, (partly paid) parental leave and flexible employment conditions (multiple choice model). Here you’ll find more information about working at Utrecht University.


A better future for everyone. This ambition motivates our scientists in their leading research and inspiring teaching. At Utrecht University, the various disciplines collaborate intensively on major societal themes. Our focus is on Dynamics of Youth, Institutions for Open Societies, Life Sciences and Sustainability.

The Faculty of Humanities has around 6,000 students and 900 staff members. It comprises four knowledge domains: Philosophy and Religious Studies, History and Art History, Media and Culture Studies, and Languages, Literature and Communication. With its research and teaching in these fields, the faculty aims to contribute to a better understanding of the Netherlands and Europe in a rapidly changing social and cultural context. Enthusiastic and committed faculty members and excellent amenities in the historical city center of Utrecht, where the faculty is housed, contribute to an inspiring working environment.

Additional information

For additional information, please contact the Principal Investigator, Professor Frank Kessler.


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