Museum showcases 3D images from 150 years ago

Stereograph cards
Stereograph cards

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - 3D technology may be the buzz in home entertainment systems and the box office, but it's been around since the Civil War.

"Civil War in 3D" is the newest exhibit at the Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum in Columbia.  It features a slide show of more than 30 minutes of some of the most iconic images of the Civil War that seem to come alive in 3D.

"When you look at these images and you have your 3D glasses on, and the image is popping out at you, there's a dimensionality there," said Curator of History Kristina Johnson. "You almost feel like there's a real person standing in front of you."

From the bombardment of Fort Sumter to the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, the story is told in pictures.

"We wanted to give a narrative of those four years of war," said Johnson. "Starting here in South Carolina and then following through the assassination of Abraham Lincoln."

Popularity of the stereograph grew in the 1860's, and many Civil War photographers used stereograph cameras.  The photos were sold to people to view on their personal stereographs.

"It's getting the images out in a way that some of the photographers intended them to be viewed, because they were taking these images with stereograph cameras," said Johnson.

Although the photos are 150 years old, some of them have the quality of digital technology.

"The clarity of some of these images is excellent," said Johnson. "You can see the whiskers on the men's beards."

"Photography was an essential part of the war," said Johnson.  It changed the way Americans both in the north and south viewed warfare overall, because this was the first time in history when photographers were able to get their equipment out to a battlefield."

Some of the photos have helped historians piece together the past.

"This was an amazing photographic record of the war," said Johnson. "We've found burial sites based on the images.  It's still an important part of learning about those four years."

Although many of the images are recognizable, some rare photographs have been donated to the exhibit by collectors, including a photograph of a South Carolina militia unit taken on the USC horseshoe, known then as the South Carolina College.

"The image on the South Carolina horseshoe was taken by a local photographer," said Johnson.  "His name was Warren and he went out and captured this incredible image that nobody knew existed in South Carolina until I had a local gentleman bring it in to us to use in the exhibit."

"Civil War in 3D" is the third in a series of exhibits the museum is presenting to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.  The Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum is at 301 Gervais St. in Columbia.

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