Sunday, June 8, 2014

Historical Perspective

At the recent 60th anniversary screening of Creature From The Black Lagoon at Monsterpalooza, more than a few audience members approached me after the movie and asked if it was only recently converted to 3-D. They didn’t know that this was one of the classic movies from the 1950s 3-D “Golden Age”. When I explained that it was actually filmed in 3-D back in 1954, I received a shocked reaction of “Wow, I’ve only ever seen this in 2-D before tonight. It looked great in 3-D!”

I’m always a bit frustrated when it comes to the public’s general knowledge of 3-D and the history of stereoscopic imagery. I often ask people if they were aware that 3-D photography dates back to the 1850s, and that the Civil War was documented in stereo photos. I’m usually met with great surprise, especially when I proceed to show them 3-D images of Abraham Lincoln. Stereoscopes and stereo cards were a major form of home entertainment from the mid 1800s through the Victorian era, and most people seem to be unaware of that fact.

So we are going to try to do something about that. Starting in August and running through October, I will be presenting an exhibit at the Heritage Square Museum in Los Angeles’ Highland Park neighborhood. Heritage Square is a remarkable outdoor living museum, where a number of Victorian period houses and other structures have been restored and maintained. Their mission is to explore the settlement and development of Southern California from the Civil War to the early 20th Century, offering visitors a look into the everyday lives of Southern Californians at the close of the 19th Century. On a recent visit to the museum, I noticed that they did have some antique stereoscopes on display, but they didn’t have much information on the 3-D of that time, and that’s where the club comes in. Heritage Square has invited us to create an exhibit for their gallery space which resides inside one of the restored houses. In the gallery there will be glass cases to display antique stereoscopes, stereo cards, cameras and other 3-D devices of the period. And in the Victorian dining room, the public will be have a hands-on opportunity to pick up a stereoscope and look at vintage stereo pictures. In addition, the club will present lectures on the history of Stereoscopy and on 3-D in Victorian era California, and we will also present an outdoor 3-D movie screening for Halloween.