*Note - Great News - The refurbished Grand Union Camera Obscura is now open.* We received an email stating that the camera was opened to the public on May, 2 2005.

A press release on the opening is on line now as well as an article about the opening. We look forward to visiting on our next visit to the Isle of Man.

Vintage images of Great Union Camera Obscura from our collection were added to this page 7/2004.

Great Union Camera Obscura, Isle of Man
Our visit on May 31, 1996

Jack photographing on Douglas Head

On May 30, 1996 we flew from Liverpool to the Isle of Man on Manx Airways arriving in the midst of the TT motorcycle races. Lucky us! We have no interest in motorcycles and would have liked to miss the crowds and road closings. We spend several wonderful days with our friends the Fentons. He is a photo historian of note and we were able to research and copy material from his collection and interview him about camera obscuras in general and the Great Union in particular.

The Great Union Camera Obscura stands on the Douglas Head overlooking the harbor. Sadly for our visit it was not in a usable state. We had been to the Isle of Man twice before this trip. In the 1985 we saw the camera obscura in operation. It is unlike most camera obscuras since it does not have a rotating lens but has 11 lenses around the roof that project onto shelves set into alcoves. The views change as you walk around the building. We were told that it was designed with 12 lenses but this left no room for the door and ticket booth. When we saw it in the summer of 1996 the outside looked much as it did in the postcards below from the early years of the 20th century.

The camera obscura was in private hands for many years and had been allowed to fall into disrepair before it was purchased by the Manx government. When we visited in the summer of '96 we made arrangements through our friend to get into the building to photograph even though we knew the lenses had been removed for safety. When we arrived at the government offices for the key it could not be found so we could not go inside as planned. At least we had a beautiful day to photograph the outside of the building.

* See update and link above for a January 2005 progress report.

Images of the Great Union Camera Obscura from Our Collection

A close examination of the colorized postcard below suggest it dates from the early years of the 20th century.

This brown toned photographic card by Valentine has a hard to read postmark that seems to be from the 1920s. The dress on the visitors would support that date.

Magic Mirror of Life Home Page and Site Map

What is a camera obscura?

Why we created this site

Frequently Asked Questions about the Camera Obscura (please check this page before sending email questions)

Links and a Bibliography about the camera obscura

Map and illustrated diary of
our visits to
US camera obscuras

Map and illustrated diary of
our 1996 trip to
Great Britain camera obscuras

Images of camera obscuras from our collection.

Some Images from our collection
Trade Cards with Camera Obscuras
Lost UK Seaside Camera Obscuras
Other Lost UK Camera Obscuras
Lost US Seaside Camera Obscura
Lost US Park Camera Obscuras
Other Lost US Camera Obscuras
No, it's not a camera obscura

Portable and box camera obscuras from our collection.
Wooden Camera Obscuras
Metal Camera Obscuras
Camera Obscuras with the Lens at the Top
Cardboard Camera Obscuras
A French Artist's Camera with supplies
Vermeer's Camera, a 1934 teaching camera
Camera Obscura Publications

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Modified 5/2005