Ramsey Stereograph Collection Grants the Illusion of a 3-Dimensional Trip through Time
This year Kelvin W. Ramsey (Class of 1979), recently donated an additional 159 items to his collection of stereographs and magic lantern slides housed at the Special Collections Research Center. The collection (MS 00009) includes hundreds of nineteenth- and twentieth-century views of eastern landscapes, mostly Virginia (including many of the College of William & Mary);
images of agriculture and labor; views of monuments and historic sites; and charming vignettes similar to theatre scenes. A treasure trove for those interested in photography and stereoscopy, the collection features stereographs made by companies such as Underwood & Underwood, Melander & Brothers, Keystone & Co., Bell & Brother, and D. H. Anderson, as well as many others.
Stereographs were one of the earliest kinds of images allowing for a 3-D viewing experience. Each card features a pair of two-dimensional photographs that are slightly different (usually created by the photographer taking the photo twice, but from a slightly different spot or angle). By placing the card/slide in a stereoscope and looking at the side-by-side images through the device, the viewer sees an overlapping of the two images and his or her eyes interpret them as a single three-dimensional image. Some stereographs were hand-colored, which enhances the visual illusion.
SCRC has a number of stereoscopes to use for viewing this collection, so schedule a research appointment and come check out the 3-D entertainment of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries!