Burke and Wills Expedition stereoscopes | State Library of New South Wales

Burke and Wills expedition stereoscopes

Four pairs of stereographic photographs of the Victorian Exploring Expedition in William Strutt's Burke and Wills albums were taken at Royal Park, Melbourne, prior to the departure of the expedition in August 1860.

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A stereograph, or stereoscope photograph, is a picture that lets you see in three dimensions. Two photographs of the same object are taken, just a few inches apart. When both photos are viewed side by side, usually through a stereoscope viewer, both images, slightly different, blend as one three-dimensional image in the brain.

In these stereoscopes, one shows the standing figure of John King, only survivor of the South-North crossing, with East Indian camel drivers. The other three show scenes of the camels and the general camp site.

In a society without radio, television or films, the 19th century stereograph took the viewer one step closer to reality. Where previously there had been only written documentation about a place or event, the stereograph provided an inexpensive and convincing alternative containing more than just the image.