UCR/CMP NEH Digital Project

By My Nguyen, Student Intern of CHASS College of Computing

A new exhibit at the UCR/ California Museum of Photography is part of a National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) project which seeks to digitize and catalog over 9,000 stereoviews from the Keystone-Mast Collection.  The exhibit focuses on the Middle East and India sections of the collection in its new and arresting exhibit, "Balancing the Lenses: Stereoviews of the Middle East."

Stereography is the technique of depicting solid, three-dimensional images on a planar, or flat, surface. Invented in the 1830s by Sir Charles Wheatstone, early stereography consisted of simple stereocards that were viewed through a stereoscope. However, the legacy of stereographic technology evolved into well-known contemporary forms such as red-blue "3-D" glasses and the Viewmaster.

This fascinating new exhibit sets out to do more than simply display stereographs of the Middle East.  "Balancing the Lenses" seeks to showcase the complex linkage between "the East" and "the West" through these stereographic images.  The countries in this project include Turkey, Syria, Mesopotamia, Persia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine, India, Pakistan, Tibet, Algeria, Arabia, Egypt, Morocco, and Tunisia.  All the stereographs were taken between the years 1890 to 1940, during the height of stereography, as well as the height of the colonization of these countries by the British, French, and Italians.

The stereographs from the Keystone-Mast Collection, however, provide deeper historical insight beyond mere stereotypes of the East; they also captured glimpses of the 'authentic' Middle East of the time. In the midst of pyramids, mosques and camels, one finds street markets, school children, and many other daily life activities. The stereographs in this collection show a variety of social classes, religions, and activities that prove the Middle East to be a "Crossroads of Humanity".

The exhibit is a part of the National Endowment of the Humanities project "Creating Online Access to19th and 20th-Century Stereographs of the Middle East."  This project seeks to digitalize 9,000 stereographs of the Middle East and India from the Keystone-Mast Collection.  It is through the generosity of the Mast family and Mead Kibbey that the Keystone-Mast Collection resides at UCR/California Museum of Photography, which now holds the world's largest collection of original stereographic prints and negatives.  All the images presented in this exhibit come from this collection.

The NEH project is led by Jonathan Green, Professor of Art History and Executive Director of UCR ARTSblock, and is curated by Diana Rose, NEH Project Manager, and Melody Levin, Digital Imaging Assistant. The exhibit has been on display since February 23, 2008 and will continue until July 12, 2008 at the UCR/CMP located in Downtown Riverside.  It is also available for public viewing through UCR/CMP's website, www.cmp.ucr.edu

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