Making Some Digital Stereograph Magic

Please welcome Micah Vandegrift and Sarah Stanley from the Office of Digital Research and Scholarship (DRS) here at FSU for a guest post on a project we have worked closely with them to bring to the FSU Digital Library.

One of the best things about working in what we’re calling “digital scholarship” is the chance to collaborate with scholars on unique projects. Several years ago, one such project walked in the door of our special collections research center. Jennifer Pride, a doctoral candidate in Art History, was the fortunate recipient of the late Courtauld Professor John House’s vast collection of stereoscopes, which she decided to donate to the Department of Art History. Several of our librarians and archivists met with Jennifer and decided on a course of action.

The primary goal of the project is to build an online collection of the material, allowing scholars and the public to enjoy and learn from it. Jennifer had learned the late professor’s collection strategy and organization, and had already begun scanning some images for her own research. After an initial meeting with Matthew Miguez, our metadata librarian, Jennifer completed the description of about 700 images. The physical materials were then transferred to our Digital Library Center, where Stuart Rochford, Studio Manager, processed and digitized the stereographs. These digitized versions were then loaded and made publicly available through the FSU Digital Library.

This is where the newly-formed Office of Digital Research and Scholarship comes in. One of our areas of interest is the creative reuse of digital collections. We often talk about digital scholarship as being the layer of context, visualization, or analysis that sits on top of a collection of material. Based on the uniqueness of this type of photography, and the collection’s distinct place in space and time, we decided to quickly attempt a “proof of concept” project with a few items.

The NYPL (New York Public Library) Lab’s Stereogranimator was a perfect first test. This tool was designed to take stereographs, two images, and allow you, the (re)user, to mash the images together in creative ways. We GIF-ized a few and 3D-ified some others as you can see below. Fun with history and the internet!

Another activity often done with geographic/culturally recognizable objects is finding a way to place them back in their location. HistoryPin is a tool built on Google Street View that allows the (re)user to “drop a pin,” like a historical photograph, directly where the thing existed once upon a time. So, we took stereogranimated images (not the best quality) and placed a few of them around Paris.

As proof of concepts, both of these show that the John House Stereograph collection is deeply useful and has great potential for further study. We plan to continue to work with Jennifer and other Art Historians to explore the stories and patterns that emerge from this digitally re-presented collection. What would you do with 1400 digitized 3D stereographs of Paris from the 1850’s to early 1900s?!

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