Monday, February 25, 2008

Can you name this artifact?

Bonus points if you can tell us what is wrong in this picture are a couple of hints:

1. Although the model to the left is from around 1900, this artifact was first made in the 1840s.

2. This artifact allows users to experience "three-dimensional" views of tourist sites.

If you guessed that the artifact in question was a stereoscope (designed to read dual image photos called stereographs, stereograms, or stereoviews), you are RIGHT!

Between the 1840s and 1930s, millions of stereographs were produced. Stereographs featured two images printed side by side at slightly differing angles. When someone viewed the stereograph through a stereoscope, each eye saw a different image combining the two into one seemingly three-dimensional image. The concept of stereography was based upon Charles Wheatstone's 1838 paper of the same topic.

Stereographs first gained widespread attention, however, when they were displayed at the 1851 Great Exhibition. Praised by Queen Victoria, they were popularized in the United States by Oliver Wendell Holmes when he created a handheld viewer and promoted instituting stereograph libraries. He recognized the important role of the stereograph in entertainment, education, and virtual travel.

Stereoscopes and stereographs enjoyed mass popularity until the advent of motion picture technology in the 1920s. Children today, however, still enjoy viewing the 3-D images on the contemporary version of the stereoscope, the View-Master by Fisher-Price.

Did you catch our error in the first photograph? The stereograph is upside-down (oops...even museum professionals make mistakes. Especially when the exhibit area is dark)

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