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The Warsaw Voice » Other » August 13, 2008
On the town
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Warsaw Fotoplastikon Reopens
August 13, 2008 By P.M.     wersja polska »
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Warsaw's historic Fotoplastikon stereoscopic viewing center has reopened in August after years of disrepair to become one of the greatest tourist attractions in the city.

This unique stereoscope, built in 1905, is officially registered as part of the city's historical heritage. This summer it is showing photographs of Warsaw from the 1890s to the 1960s.

A stereoscope is an instrument with two eyepieces through which a pair of photographs of the same scene or subject, taken at slightly different angles, are viewed side by side: the two photographs are seen as a single picture apparently having depth, or three dimensions.

The stereoscope was invented in Germany in the second half of the 19th century. The invention soon became popular, enabling everyone to visit the most distant parts of the world, at a reasonable cost, without having to undertake an expensive and risky journey. The three-dimensional pictures produced by a special dual-lens camera provided an amazing illusion of reality. Stereoscopes, known as Kaiser-panorama in Germany, appeared in every corner of the world. By the turn of the century they already numbered about 250 in the whole of Europe. However in time, the Lumiere brothers in Paris introduced their cinema of "living pictures," an appealing invention that soon displaced stereoscopes. Gradually, the strange, impractical stereoscope drums were forgotten.

The Warsaw Fotoplastikon originally opened at 51 Jerozolimskie Avenue around 1905 where it continues as the only installation of its kind that remains on its original site. In the 1940s it helped people bear Nazi oppression in the darkest period of World War II. It served the Polish resistance movement as a secret contact point and it was here too, soon after the war ended in 1945, while Warsaw still lay in ruins, that sunny, friendly pictures of a happier age could be seen that held the promise of a brighter future. In the '50s and '60s they created a slit in the Iron Curtain: here people could safely meet, listen to jazz and look at pictures of London and Paris.

Today, the Warsaw Fotoplastikon remains a magic place where the old pictures can be seen by modern audiences.

(Information from Fotoplastikon Warszawski, www.fotoplastikon.stereos.com.pl)
Fotoplastikon, 51 Jerozolimskie Ave.
Open daily except Tuesdays 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
Admission free until the end of August.
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