Center for Civil War Photography Online Exhibits

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Have you ever heard this question?
History is so boring.  It doesn’t have anything to do with what is happening today.

 If so, here’s another tool to help obliterate that argument in your classroom.  What’s the rage in motion picture & movie theater technology today?  3D!  The Center for Civil War Photography has a number of online exhibits, archiving a number of images from the 1800s.  Several use contain early 3-D photos – two images taken from slightly different points of view and placed side-by-side on a card, called a stereogram

Used with a stereoscope, a simple device that held the card a pre-set distance from the viewer who looked at the image through two glass windows or prism lenses, this simulated binocular vision which creates added depth (the third dimension) when viewing the photos.

Stereograms & stereoscopes were all the rage from the mid-1800s through the early 1900s.  (My grandparents had a 1930s-era stereoscope & a set of sterograms - very similar to the one in the image above - that my brother & I would per through for hours.)  Some of the images in this online exhibit have been converted to anaglyphs – the old red-blue 3-D technology – and can be viewed on a standard computer monitor with a pair of those lovely old paper 3-D glasses.  Gee… Remember when we used to be able to cut these from the backs of cereal boxes and what not?  (The new glasses you get at the theaters today won’t work.)

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 The recent announcement of the Nintendo 3DS brings this all into focus, if you’ll pardon the pun.  This new device adds an extra layer over the screen of this portable handheld gaming device called a parallax barrier.  This is essentially a plastic screen with tiny slits that allow each of the user’s eyes to see a slightly different images, tricking the brain into thinking they are seeing in 3-D, without the use of glasses, etc.  In other words, it is a miniaturized full-motion version of the stereoscopes of old.  This is one of many versions of autostereoscopy, which means that it is a glasses-free 3-D technology. 

(Of course, the technology is vastly more complex that this.  This is just a quick non-technical explanation.)

So, pull this post out of your mental toolbox the next time you hear kids ask, “What does History have to do with me today?”  It might help draw your kids into the study of History a little more, and it will help you connect to kids’ worlds a little more closely, too!

Thanks to Free Tech for Teachers for this tip

Center for Civil War Photography Online Exhibits Overview