Image Analysis of the Bijou Theatre in the early 1900s
In this lesson, students will use postcards and photographs from the Going to the Show digital collection that highlight the moviegoing experience in the early 1900s to expand their critical thinking and visual literacy skills, gain experience analyzing comparable visual images of the same subject, and consider motivations for different visual image constructs.
A lesson plan for grade 8 Social Studies
Provided by UNC Libraries / Documenting the American South
In this lesson, students will be presented with three images of the Bijou Theatre (pronounced “bye-joe” by locals): a photograph, a postcard derived from the photograph, and a sketch illustration of the Bijou Theatre. The images were taken following the Bijou Theatre’s renovation in 1912 when it was transformed from a canvas tent to a permanent building. This lesson references photographic images and contemporary street scenes near the theater. It prompts students to look at the same place in two different time periods and to compare and contrast the nature of that location during those different time periods. Through these activities, students will gain practice using important historical critical thinking skills.
- practice visual literacy skills and gain experience analyzing multiple types of visual sources related to the Bijou Theatre and Wilmington, North Carolina in the early 1900s.
- analyze the motivations for different representations of a particular subject across different visual contexts.
Two to three class periods
- Copies of the images listed below — one per student
- Bijou Theatre photograph, presumed to be taken around 1912
- Bijou Theatre postcard
- Bijou Theatre advertisement – sketch illustration (Wilmington Star – 2/18/1914) Note: You may wish to excerpt and print the illustration, as it’s part of an advertisement that provides a lot of additional information that could influence analysis of the image.
- Copies of an image-analysis handout — one per student (Note: You may wish to use this photo analysis worksheet from the Library of Congress. Alternatively, this document contains an extensive list of possible photo analysis/discussion questions.)
- Access to the Going to the Show collection and resources
- Computer with internet connected to a multimedia project (optional)
- Computer lab or individual student computers (optional - if you will be having the students access the images on a computer)
In this lesson, students will be presented with three images of the Bijou Theatre: a photograph, a postcard derived from the photograph, and a sketch illustration of the theater. The images were taken following the Bijou Theatre’s renovation in 1912 when it was transformed from a canvas tent to a permanent building. Teachers should familiarize themselves with the Going to the Show digital collection. Read the following brief essays and articles to acquaint yourself with the collection:
- Students should have already learned about nineteenth century North Carolina history and be familiar with the geography of North Carolina. This lesson focuses on a very specific activity in the early 20th century—going to see a moving picture show in Wilmington in the early 1900s. Therefore, this lesson would align well with discussions of the early 20th century, particularly 1900-1920.
- Students should be familiar with working with visual and photographic primary sources. A good general primer on using primary sources in the classroom is Using Primary Sources from the Library of Congress.
Activity one: Analyzing the first image
- To begin the discussion, let the students know that this lesson focuses on images related to moviegoing in the early 1900s in Wilmington, North Carolina. Remind them that images may be used as primary sources; however, the type of the image may impact or influence the “information” it conveys. Explain that they will be analyzing and comparing/contrasting an original photograph, a postcard created from the photograph, and an illustration of the same subject.
- Explain to the class that they will be analyzing images from a digital collection that focuses on moviegoing in the early 1900s for the state of North Carolina. This collection includes visual images, news clippings, and Sanborn maps, which provide geographical references for the city at several points in time.
- Next, ask some questions to get students thinking and talking about photographs as historical sources, such as:
- Why do people take pictures?
- Why do people save pictures?
- What can you learn from photographs?
- What historical insights can you glean from photographs?
- Next, ask some questions to get students thinking and talking about postcards and using them as historical sources, such as:
- Who creates postcards?
- Who sells postcards?
- What is the purpose of postcards?
- Who buys postcards?
- Why do people save postcards?
- What can you learn from postcards?
- Before looking at the images, you might want to provide a brief historical introduction to the subject of this exercise, the Bijou Theatre. It is part of the Going to the Show digital collection that highlights the early moviegoing experience in North Carolina from 1896 – at the introduction of projected motion pictures – through the 1930s. Wilmington was the state’s largest city in 1900 with a population of 25,000. The Bijou Theatre was one of the first movie theaters in the state and the first movie theater in Wilmington, opening its doors in 1906. The original Bijou Theatre was a tent with a wooden sham front and a sawdust floor built to blend in with the other buildings on North Front Street. The images used in this lesson are taken after the tent was replaced by a permanent building in 1912. The Bijou Theatre was probably the first purpose-built movie theater in North Carolina. Most other movie theaters at this time, including those in Wilmington, were repurposed storefronts. The Bijou Theatre was North Carolina’s longest running movie theater, closing its doors in 1956. It was demolished in 1963.
- Provide students with an image-analysis handout or a questionnaire you have developed that includes the basic questions you want to cover. You may also wish to use this photo analysis worksheet from the Library of Congress. Alternatively, this document contains an extensive list of possible photo analysis/discussion questions.
- Organize the students into three separate groups. You will assign one of the following three images to each of the three groups. Each group will analyze its image independently of any prior influence from the other two images. This should enable the identification of some interesting distinguishing characteristics as the students report back on their image analyses.
- Bijou Theatre photograph, presumed to be taken around 1912
- Bijou Theatre postcard
- Bijou Theatre advertisement - sketch illustration (Wilmington Star – 2/18/1914) Note: You may wish to excerpt and print the illustration, as it’s part of an advertisement that provides a lot of additional information that could influence analysis of the image.
- Have the students record their overall impression and what initially struck them about the image when they first looked at it.
- Have students identify their top three people, objects, and activities and denote them with an asterisk (*), as these will be what they highlight when they report back to the rest of the class.
- Have students respond to any other photo analysis questions you’ve identified for them to answer.
Activity two: Report out
- Each group will identify a spokesperson to share their analysis with the class. They should report the following information:
- Their initial overall impression of the image. What was it about the image that struck them when they first looked at it?
- Identify their “top 3″ people, objects, activities from the image.
- Share two inferences they drew from the image.
- Share two questions the image raised.
- Share two impressions gleaned from the image about moviegoing in the early 1900s.
- Be sure to capture what each group presents on the white board using three columns so that the class can see the similarities and differences of the students’ analyses across the three images.
Activity three: Compare and contrast
The final activity will be conducted together as a class. Give each student copies of all three images to all students so that they can see them side-by-side.
Compare and contrast the photograph and the postcard
- This will be the first time the students will see the photograph and postcard side-by-side. The postcard is based on the photograph, and students should immediately note some key differences between the two (e.g., the photo is in black and white while the postcard has been “colorized,” the postcard has removed some aspects of the photograph, the postcard has added some new elements, etc.).
- After identifying the key differences, return to the introductory discussion, and ask the students why they think the postcard has been “image edited.” Questions to consider:
- Who published post cards?
- Who was the target market for postcards?
- Who purchased post cards?
- Where did post cards go after they were purchased?
- You may want to conclude this activity up by asking students to read the brief essay on picture postcards on the Going to the Show site.
- Lastly, discuss to what this image editing is analogous in today’s world. Do we ever see an unaltered photograph today? Can we really trust any published photographs that we see?
Compare and contrast the photograph/postcard and the illustration
- Because the photograph and postcard are essentially the same image, they can be used collectively to compare/contrast with the illustration. Remind the students that this illustration was part of a Bijou Theatre advertisement.
- Go through the same analysis process of discussing key similarities and differences, and ask why to expand on what the students say.
- Ask: What is the purpose of an advertisement versus a postcard?
- You may want to conclude this activity by showing the students the full advertisement from which the illustration was taken. Briefly discuss the additional information that the advertisement provides.
Activity four: Photographic touch-ups (optional)
- Have students walk through the downtown area of your town and take some photos.
- Instruct the students to consider the photographs as marketing advertisements for the area. Ask them to identify elements that should be removed or added to make the photograph more attractive.
- Use an image-editing tool to enhance the photograph, simulating the touch-ups that are commonly done, even on early photographs.
Conclude the session with a brief collective wrap-up discussion, and ask the students to share their responses to the following questions:
- What was most interesting?
- What was most surprising?
- Did it make them think about the use of images and image processing today any differently?
- Are there any major historical or contemporary questions that their explorations generated? Where might they go to get answers to those questions?
Assessment will be based on the students’ image analysis handouts and their participation in class discussions. You can determine how much weight each part of the lesson is worth and what specific rubric to use based on their own teaching and learning priorities and classroom practices. The following questions will help you think about how to assess a student’s work for various parts of the lesson:
- Image analysis handout:
- Did the student identify significant details in the image?
- Did the student draw reasonable conclusions from the details they observed?
- Did the student interpret the image evidence thoughtfully?
- Did the student write down his/her observations carefully and in detail that could be used for later analysis?
- Discussions and classroom activities:
- Did the student contribute frequently and thoughtfully to class discussion?
- If group work was a part of the lesson, did the student cooperate and do their fair share of the work?
- Reading images: An introduction with visual literacy
- This article provides information about how students can learn to interpret images meaningfully.
- Resources for teaching with photographs
- This article provides websites, activities, books, and image collections for classroom use.
- Reading photographs
- This article provides questions and ideas for teaching how to interpret photographs.
- News clippings about the Bijou Theatre
- This page provides a listing of news articles related to the Bijou Theater. Specifically, the following news clips provide more information about the theater:
- North Carolina Essential Standards
- Social Studies (2010)
- 8.H.3 Understand the factors that contribute to change and continuity in North Carolina and the United States. 8.H.3.1 Explain how migration and immigration contributed to the development of North Carolina and the United States from colonization to contemporary...
- Social Studies (2010)
North Carolina curriculum alignment
Social Studies (2003)
- Goal 5: The learner will evaluate the impact of political, economic, social, and technological changes on life in North Carolina from 1870 to 1930.
- Objective 5.02: Examine the changing role of educational, religious, and social institutions in the state and analyze their impact.