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Stereoscopic Images at Library of Congress

1900-West Point cadets drill An early form of 3D images were called ‘stereoscopic photos’. Using two images next to each other and then viewed through lens in a special stereoscopic viewer, you see the photo with great depth, almost as if you were right there in person. These stereoscopic photos became very popular in the 1850s and through the 1910s. They served as a great means of home entertainment. People would purchased these stereoscopic photos of scenes from around the world or images from their own hometown. The decline of these images came with the development of movie film and improved print photography done in magazines. However, it is wonderful that thousands of these stereoscopic photos still exist in the 21st century.

In the New York Public Library there is the Robert N. Dennis Collection of stereoscopic images (total of 72,000 for the complete collection) which cover scenes from the states of New Jersey, New York and Connecticut. There are 12,046 in this massive collection available online through the Library of Congress for these three states which range from the 1850s to the 1910s.

To search you can use the ‘keyword’ search box, or ‘subject’ or ‘name index’. Using the keyword just about any word or phrase could be searched. When you find something of interest click on ‘view this item’ which is in the upper left corner. Many times several stereoscopic images all related to that key word will appear in thumbnail format. A brief description is under each thumbnail which can then be enlarged by clicking on the image. Plus additional pages, check the bottom of that page for any added listings.

Using the subject search there is a full range of topics to selection. There are prisons, stagecoaches, yachts, soldiers at West Point, bridges, disasters, schools, picnics, and many others. Use the same procedure to view the description with each thumbnail image and then enlarge to view the stereoscopic and you can save the digital image to your computer (right click).

The name index search uses the names of the photographers. So if you locate the work of a certain photographer and you want to see other examples of his work, use this method.

This collection is a wonderful series of images in an interesting format to investigate.

Photo: West Point cadets practicing in 1900.

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