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Step Back in Time and View 19th Century Photographs of Mount Vernon in 3-D!


New Exhibition Showcases Historic Views of George Washington’s Estate

MOUNT VERNON, VA—Visitors to George Washington’s Mount Vernon will have the chance to travel back in time, and in 3-D, to see how the estate appeared more than 100 years ago through a special photography exhibition, Mount Vernon in 3-D: Then & Now beginning August 1.

The show features 20 rare historic images from Mount Vernon’s collection dating from the 1850s to the early 1900s. Presented in 3-D form, the images capture various interior and exterior views of the Mansion, along with locations such as Washington’s tomb, the wharf, and the gardens. By comparing the historic images with scenes from modern times, visitors will instantly note how the estate has changed over time thanks to the tireless preservation efforts of the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association, which purchased the home from the Washington family in 1858.

To bring these historic images to life for today’s guests, Mount Vernon partnered with the Center for Civil War Photography to digitally scan the stereoview cards, overlaying them as modern 3-D images, or anaglyphs. The resulting 3-D images will be mounted on signs and placed in their corresponding locations across the estate.

The featured images originally appeared on stereoview cards—an early form of 3-D technology in which two photographs were printed side by side on a single card. When examined through a viewer called a stereoscope, the two flat pictures blend into a single image, giving the illusion of depth. This photographic technique originated in the 1840s and was popular until the 1930s, when movies and other modern media took center stage. A few of the Mount Vernon photographs come from noted photographers Alexander Gardner and Frederick and William Langenheim.  

During the course of this installation, Mount Vernon will offer complimentary 3-D glasses and a map calling out the locations on the estate where the images can be viewed. The map also includes interpretive notes indicating the changes that have taken place on the estate since the early photograph was taken. For example, in an 1880s view of the Mansion’s west front, the sun dial is missing. A circa 1900 view of the gardens reveals the absence of the greenhouse, which had been destroyed in a fire in 1835.

Long a part of Mount Vernon’s collection, these stereoviews served an important role in the preservation work of the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association. In its early years, the Association raised funds to support its extensive and costly preservation work by selling images of Mount Vernon. Stereoviews, which “transported” people to faraway locations and landmarks, proved an important source of revenue.

The exhibition, included in admission, will remain on view through November 20. For more information and to view the historic stereoview images as well as the modern 3-D anaglyphs, visit


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