The Importance of Preserving 3D Imagery

January 5th, 2023

by Ken Kovar, Chicago3d

3D photography, also known as stereoscopic photography, has had a fascinating history of ebbs and flows in popularity. In the mid to late 19th century, stereoscopic photography was all the rage, with special viewing devices called stereoscopes used to see the 3D effect. This trend waned in the early 20th century, but experienced a resurgence in the 1950s with the advent of 3D movies and 35mm stereo cameras.

Today, 3D photography continues to be a popular medium, particularly with the proliferation of virtual and augmented reality technologies. However, the interest in 3D photography can vary depending on cultural and technological factors. For example, some countries may be more interested in 3D photography due to a greater emphasis on visual media, while others may not have as much access to the necessary technology.

Despite the fluctuations in popularity, 3D photography remains an important medium for preserving and documenting our world. 3D images allow us to see a more realistic representation of objects and spaces, providing a level of detail and depth that is not possible with 2D images. This makes 3D photography particularly valuable for scientific and historical purposes, as it allows us to more accurately document and study the world around us.

However, 3D images can sometimes be a challenge due to specialized equipment and technology.  Although with current smartphones and some knowledge of the concepts of 3D photography, creating 3D images is now within reach of most people.  It is important for individuals to learn the proper techniques for creating and displaying 3D images. Fortunately, there are many websites focused on these, and many more, aspects of 3D imagery. Chicago3d, as an Archive-It Partner, is actively working to collect and preserve many of these websites.

Screen shot of 3-D Legends Hall of Fame archived web page with 3 images of Left, Right, and Center of a man wearing 3D glasses and then a lady legend on left, and 2 men in center and right

Image 1. 3-D Legends Hall of Fame archived website captured November 21, 2022.

The websites included in the Chicago3d Archive-It collections cover a wide spectrum, from personal websites to the websites of large non-profit organizations. All include various aspects of 3D photography. They present visuals that cover the span of time from the 1850’s to the present day and locations from around the globe. One example is a website that provides a very visual look at key individuals who have made significant contributions to 3D photography (see Image 1, 3-D Legends). Another website offers the opportunity for any stereographer to share their own 3D photos with the world and have those photos displayed in a format chosen by the viewer (see Image 2, Stereopix).  There are many more websites included in the collections, and all were created by persons who want to share their passion for 3D photography with others.

Screen shot of Stereopix archived web page with a 3D camera

Image 2. Stereopix archived website captured April 23, 2022.

Some of the challenges encountered during this project include learning the process of archiving websites as well as the difficulty of accurately capturing all the various formats of websites to be preserved. Archive-It tutorial videos were a great help in addressing the former. The latter remains a day to day issue. One example of this would be the capture of WIX format websites. That said, it is an ongoing process and we do the best we can, continuing to learn to use the archiving tools available.      

In conclusion, while the interest in 3D photography may ebb and flow over time, it remains an important medium for documenting and studying the world around us. It is crucial that we invest in the preservation of 3D images in order to ensure that this valuable resource is not lost to future generations. Chicago3d, Archive-It and the Internet Archive are playing a critical role in this preservation.