Slides such as Buchanan Smith’s would have been viewed on an instrument like this. Stereoscopic vision is made possible by taking two very slightly different photographs of the same scene. The left eye views one image, the right eye the other, and the brain combines the two to create one 3D image.
This style of viewer was demonstrated at the ‘Crystal Palace’ Great Exhibition of 1851 by Sir David Brewster and by the mid-late nineteenth century most middle-class homes owned a hand-held stereoscope to view stereocards and a portable viewer to view glass stereoscopic slides.
Our viewer and slides were donated in 2015 by the Revd Trevor Dorey, who had inherited them from Sir Walter Buchanan Smith in 1946. Dorey and Sir Walter met during the Second World War when Dorey was head chorister in Westminster Abbey’s wartime boys’ choir. Dorey recalls how as a very ordinary suburban schoolboy he was enthralled by Sir Walter’s stories about his life and adventures in Africa.