‘Victorian Virtual Reality: Photographs from the Brian May Archive of Stereoscopy’ Exhibition

‘Victorian Virtual Reality: Photographs from the Brian May Archive of Stereoscopy’ Exhibition

Watts Gallery, Compton, Surrey, UK, are holding an exhibition dedicated to the 19th century craze that saw the birth of 3-D images.

Victorian Virtual Reality: Photographs from the Brian May Archive of Stereoscopy will present highlights from the Brian May Archive of Stereoscopy to explore the 19th-century photography craze that, for the first time, enabled pictures to appear in 3D.

4.Negretti & Zambra Brewster Style Stereoscope copy

Negretti & Zambra. 1860s ornate Brewster-type stereoscope. Collection of The Brian May Archive of Stereoscopy.

Featuring over 150 stereoscopic photographs, experience how this Victorian innovation continues to captivate today through a range of viewers and digital techniques. This the first major exhibition from the collections of the Brian May Archive of Stereoscopy, and a rare opportunity to examine some of the original objects and images.

Discover the 19th-century art of stereoscopy, which saw a second wave of popularity in the mid-20th century. It was at that time that the young Sir Brian May began his passion for this photographic phenomenon and formed one of the world-leading collections of stereoscopy. 

5.Weetabix Stereoscope with photo of the hippos copy

Weetabix Stereoscope. Plastic Vistascreen stereoscopes were given away by Weetabix in their cereal packets in the late 1950s-early 1960s. Collection of The Brian May Archive of Stereoscopy.

Through viewers, stereoscopic photographs and interactive elements, explore topics such as celebrity portraits, snapshots of Victorian life, scenes of satire and devilry found in the Brian May Archive of Stereoscopy.

Stereoscopic photographs and other artwork from Watts Gallery Trust’s own collection will also feature among the loaned works.

9.Florence Smalls studio copy

Florence Small’s studio, Anonymous. Stereocard. 1880s-90s. Studio of British artist Florence Small (1859-1933). Collection of The Watts Gallery Trust.

Victorian Virtual Reality will be the first exhibition at Watts Gallery dedicated to stereoscopy. It will open with an introduction to the medium, including early images from Sir Brian’s collection, examples of viewing devices and photographs of Victorians at home, sharing and viewing their own collections of images.

6.Gaudin and family looking at Steros copy

Gaudin Brothers. Circa 1858. Collection of The Brian May Archive of Stereoscopy.

Entry to the exhibition is included in the admission cost to Watts Gallery (including the Historic Galleries and Limnerslease).

20220223_134200stereocard copy
20220831_143225crighthalfstereocard copy
20220831_141810righthalfstereocard copy

“I’m very grateful to the Watts Gallery for hosting this exhibition entirely devoted to Stereoscopy. This will be the first opportunity for me and my curators to share with the public many original and digitally reproduced 3-D images from BMAS – the Brian May Archive of Stereoscopy.  The archive now gives a home to the collection of stereo images I have been assembling for over sixty years.”

Sir Brian May
10.Ordinary people copy

Ordinary People, Anonymous. Late 1850s. Collection of The Brian May Archive of Stereoscopy.

More details are to be announced, including entertaining and educational events and activities to bring 3-D to all ages.


Dates: 4 July 2023 – 25 February 2024.

Venue: Watts Gallery, Down Ln, Compton, Surrey, UK, GU3 1DQ.

Admission: £13.50. Under 18s go free.

Curators of VVR: Brian May Archive of Stereoscopy: Denis Pellerin and Rebecca Sharpe, Watts Gallery – Artists’ Village: Dr Emily Burns and Tegan Rush.

Booking coming soon: https://www.wattsgallery.org.uk/exhibitions/victorian-virtual-reality

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