The stereograminator

GIF made with the NYPL Labs Stereogranimator - view more at
‘The pool, with the Old Man (1865?)’, animated GIF made with the NYPL Labs Stereogranimator

Now here’s something of tangential interest to us, but of interest nonetheless. The New York Public Library has a collection of around 40,000 nineteenth century stereophotographs – that is pairs of photographs designed to be looked at through a stereo viewer to give an illusion of depth. Such stereo viewers were hugely popular, and large numbers of stereo cards survive in archives and libraries.

The NYPL has opened up its collection online in an ingenious way. It has digitised the entire collection for anyone to browse, but the great pleasure of course is in seeing the images in 3D, as originally intended. So they have created an online tool, the Stereograminator (great name), enabling anyone to select a pair of images, to crop and resize them as appropriate, then to convert them into an animated GIF (you can choose slow, medium or fast for the alternation of the images) and 3D anaglyph (requiring 3D glasses, of course), with the results viewable to all via their online gallery.

Anaglyph version of the above

It’s an ingenious bit of popularisation through innovation, with a bit of what we in the library world rather painfully call ‘crowdsourcing’ i.e. getting you the public to do some of our documentation work for us. Here, with the help of site visitors, the NYPL will hope to have its entire collection converted into animated GIFs, such as the one above – and over 15,000 have been created already. Having created your GIF, you can then embed it in your blog or website, as I have done above. The resultant online gallery makes for odd viewing, with all of these images wobbling at you, but it’s addictive fun.

Other, static, nineteenth century stereograph images can be found online courtesy of the Library of Congress, Boston Public Library, and the University of Washington Libraries.