Discover why the stereoscope and stereo photography mesmerised Victorians when they first appeared at 1851’s Great Exhibition.

National Museums Scotland launches on Monday 13 November 2017 a fourth run of our free Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) Stereoscopy: An Introduction to Victorian Stereo Photography, in partnership with the University of Edinburgh. 

Featuring stereo images and equipment from the Howarth-Loomes Collection, on loan to National Museums Scotland, the course uses articles and videos – including an appearance by Dr Brian May, CBE – to explore this early form of 3D technology.

On this free online course, we will examine the rise of stereo photography and the work of two pioneering photographers – the Scotsman, George Washington Wilson, and the Englishman, Thomas Richard Williams.

We will explore how the stereoscope, originally created by inventor Sir Charles Wheatstone to investigate human binocular vision, was improved by scientist Sir David Brewster, to become a vital, elaborate drawing room essential. To enjoy stereo photography, you usually need a stereoscope or stereo viewer, but you can enjoy this course without one.


Above: Stereocard of the Art and Science Museum, Edinburgh by H Gordon.

Following its presentation to the world at the Great Exhibition in London in 1851, the stereoscope – a device that makes images appear 3D – mesmerised Victorians. Collecting and viewing stereo photographs became a craze.

Stereoscopes were produced in different price ranges, thousands of stereo images were printed and bought each year, and one company involved in this boom, The London Stereoscopic Company, proclaimed: ‘No home without a stereoscope.’

Use the hashtag #FLstereoscopy to join and contribute to social media conversations about this course.

Header image: Coloured stereocard entitled 'Crinoline Made Useful' depicting a woman being dressed in a crinoline, by an unknown photographer.


Victorian photography

Explore our archive of Victorian photography, from the early days of daguerreotypes to the birth of photography for the masses.
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13 Nov - 27 Nov 2017
3 hours per week

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Free online course 

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