Stereographs and the Stereogranimator

stereo card viewerA current and popular trend in film-making is shooting films in eye-popping 3-D format. Throughout history, 3-D technology has evolved from the simple red-blue anaglyphs of the mid-20th century, to big-budget effects that are displayed on the cinema screens today. But the fascination with 3-D and special effects is certainly not a new phenomenon, and a new project from the New York Public Library has rekindled interest in stereographs, a precursor to 3-D, with their Stereogranimator. This new page puts the NYPL’s large collection of over 40,000 stereographs at your fingertips where they can be instantly converted, viewed and shared as either animated GIFs, or 3-D anaglyphs. This initiative was loosely based on the works of artist Joshua Heineman on his site, Cursive Buildings, that he created in 2008.

stereo card archival storage boxStereographs were a popular form of entertainment over a nine-decade period spanning from the 1850’s to the 1930’s. Queen Victoria praised stereographs and consequently popularized them after they were displayed at London’s famed Great Exhibition in 1851. Oliver Wendell popularized this medium in America with his invention of the hand-held stereoscope and promotion of stereograph libraries. The first of these types of images were printed on copper (daguerreotypes) or glass (ambrotypes). It wasn’t until the printing of stereographs on card stock that their popularity truly skyrocketed. Eventually, companies like the London Stereoscopic Company started to establish and sell millions of stereoscopes and stereographs in the mid-1800’s.

four flap stereo negative storage envelopeThese images gave viewers a glimpse of a very early variation of 3-D possibilities that we see in movies today. While peering through a stereoscope at two seemingly identical photos, the viewer’s brain tricked them into thinking that they were looking at one three-dimensional image. However, unlike the animated GIFs made through the Stereogranimator, original stereographs were motionless.

Do you own or care for a special collection of stereo cards? University Products offers products to both view your images and keep them archivally safe. Our stereo card viewer is an economical option for viewing your prized stereo cards. We also provide enclosures for your stereo cards and stereo card negatives as well as stereo storage boxes to house both.