Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Library of Congress Stereoview

Stereoviews are double images of a scene on a card that when viewed with a stereoscope appear to be three dimensional or in 3D. Several decades before libraries appeared on picture postcards they could be viewed on stereoviews.  Although the period when stereoviews were available ran from the 1850s up to World War I, the "Golden Age of Stereoviews" was the 1860s and 70s. I've only collected a few library stereoviews, but I recently acquired a very interesting one. It depicts the interior of the Library of Congress when it was located in the Capitol. The back of the card indicates that it was "Entered according to Act of Congress, A.D. 1866, by G. G. Wakely, in the District Court of Washington, D.C.".  The Library of Congress did not take over the administration of copyright until 1870. Prior to that copyright was registered in the U.S. District Courts. The neat thing about this stereoview is that it depicts both library users and library staff members. There is also an interesting piece of furniture in the library that separates the staff work area (with books piled high) from the rest of the library space. The space in the Capitol designated for the Library of Congress was greatly enhanced following a disastrous fire on Dec. 24, 1851. When the Library reopened on Aug. 23, 1853 it was considered to be "the largest room made of iron in the world." Source: For Congress and the Nation, A Chronological History of the Library of Congress by John Y. Cole (Library of Congress, 1979).

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