One of my favorite aspects of this job is learning about cool old stuff. I have just had the pleasure of becoming acquainted with stereoscopic images. In the process of surface cleaning and rehousing this project, I saw a lot of cool images and learned about the use of antique stereoscopes.
Antique stereoscopes, also known as stereopticons or stereo-viewers, were popular in the late 1800s and early 1900s. A stereoscopic viewer is a special device that helps us see 2 mounted photographs as one three dimensional image. The way it works is a stereo-view slide is inserted into the viewing device, and the person viewing looks through the device while adjusting the distance of the slide. The slide is adjusted either closer or farther from the viewer’s face until it comes into focus. The two images appear as one 3D image to us when looking through the viewer because we are seeing two perspectives merge into one – not too different from the Magic Eye books that were popular in the 90’s filled with stereograms. The two perspectives are taken with a special camera that has two lenses that mimic how we see the world through two eyes. The lenses are spaced slightly apart, roughly similar to the distance of our eyes.