Magic Lantern was commissioned by the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.
They wanted a temporary work, to be exhibited in the Cupola, which reflected the V&A's standing as a monument to cultural achievement. Collishaw built a large zoetrope in the octagonal structure of the cupola, animating large moths that flutter around the glowing interior and transforming the crown of the museum into something resembling a lantern. The cupola was lit to represent the museum itself as a beacon of light to which objects of beauty, activity and life are drawn.
The zoetrope was invented in Victorian times, and has been updated to animate three-dimensional models rather than the archetypal two-dimensional zoetrope. The slot through which the illusion is usually viewed has been replaced with a stroboscope, a more contemporary type of shutter. The work thus bridges the time-span from the museum's inception to the present day.