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Going to the Show: Lesson Plans

Image Analysis through the use of photographs, postcards and illustrations of the Bijou Theatre in Wilmington, North Carolina in the early 1900s

Introduction  |   Activities 1 - 2  |   Activities 3 - 4  |   Learn More


The activities for this lesson plan will primarily focus on images from the Going to the Show website ( from the DocSouth digital collection at the University of North Carolina Library.


To begin the discussion, let the students know that this lesson focuses on images related to moviegoing in the early 1900's in Wilmington, North Carolina. Images may be used as a primary source. However, the type of the image may impact or influence the "information" it conveys. Specifically, 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 students that you will be using images from a digital collection that has been developed that focuses on moviegoing in the early 1900's for the state of North Carolina that 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 photography as an historical source, such as:

Next, ask some questions to get students thinking and talking about postcards, and using them as an historical source, such as:

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 UNC DocSouth 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, built to blend in with the other buildings on North Front Street, and a sawdust floor. The images used in this lesson are taken after the tent was replaced by a permanent building which was constructed 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.

Teacher Note:

The following photograph is of the Grand Theatre, which opened in 1910, and shows an example of a repurposed storefront converted to a theater.

Grand Theatre

The lesson is organized into two activities:

  1. In small groups, students will analyze one of the images, either the photograph, the postcard or the illustration. At the conclusion of their analysis, each small group will report their key findings and impressions. The teacher will record these in a way that the whole class can see.
  2. As a class, look at the three images together, and identify the key similarities and differences. Discuss the potential reasons and motivations behind what is retained and what is modified or manipulated.

Activity 1: Analyzing the first image 20-30 minutes:

Provide students with a photo-analysis worksheet, or a questionnaire you have developed that includes the basic questions you want to cover.

For this first activity, organize the students into three separate groups. You will assign one of the 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 their image analyses.

The three images:

Bijou Theatre photograph, presumed to be taken around 1912

Bijou Theatre Photography

Bijou Theatre postcard

Bijou Theatre Postcard

Bijou Theatre advertisement - sketch illustration (Wilmington Star - 2/18/1914)

Teacher Note: Suggest you excerpt and print just the illustration, as it's part of an advertisement that provides a lot of additional information that could influence the image analysis.

Bijou Theatre Ad

Photo Analysis Worksheet:

Step 1A: Record your overall impression. What initially struck you about the image when you first looked at it?


Have students identify their "top 3" 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.

Alternatively, teachers may want to use a more specific questionnaire, such as:

Activity 2 Report Out: 30 minutes (10 minutes per group)

Each group will identify a spokesperson to share their analysis with the class.
They should report on:

Introduction  |   Activities 1 - 2  |   Activities 3 - 4  |   Learn More