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Get a glimpse of early 3D photography at Md. museum

Sunday - 6/26/2011, 1:05pm  ET

A visitor to the Maryland Historical Society views the movie made from the 19th century images. (Evan Haning/WTOP Photo)
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Evan Haning,

BALTIMORE - James Cameron may have spent years and millions on dollars cameras that make 3D movies that don't give you a headache, but you can see examples of 3D photography taken over a hundred years ago at a local museum.

The first experiments in stereo photography began in the mid-1800s. Photographers used cameras with two lenses to take pictures which were then printed on cards.

When the two-picture cards were viewed with a stereopticon, the pictures blended into one three-dimensional image, an early version of the ViewMaster.

The Maryland Historical Society has taken stereo photo cards made during the Civil War and put them in a video that visitors can view through special glasses to see 3D images of President Lincoln, casualties of Antietam and other scenes from the 1860s.

"The Civil War in 3D" is just one of many exhibits on display as part of the state's "largest and most comprehensive Civil War exhibit in the museum's 167-year history."

On weekends, the Maryland Historical Society players perform short vignettes to convey the reality of the past to museum visitors.

The use of live actors, and tours led by guides in period costume has become increasingly important to the museum.

"It's people to people contact with people who know how to communicate," says MdHS president Burt Kummerow.

In a time of shrinking budgets and waning historical imagination in the young, Kummerow says personal contact with people who understand the past and know how to communicate their love of history are vital.

"We're all on a continuum and each generation has to learn all over again. People with no knowledge of what happened in the thousands of years before they were born are at a great disadvantage," Kummerow says.

That lesson comes through loud and clear in the Civil War exhibits, Kummerow explains, by showing "how we rushed to war because we had a new generation of young people who were looking for adventure."

But war is not the only thing on display at the museum.

There is beautiful furniture manufactured made and used in Maryland from 1634 to the present, as well as 200 years of toys, dollhouses, and a miniature circus in Nipper's Toyland.

"There's just so much to teach in history. I can take you to any object in this place, and it's got a story."

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