Ancient Egypt’s Images Revived

Egypt Stereoviews by Underwood & Underwood Exhibition

by Dalia Abushady, Nada Ehab and Noura Shibl

Stereoviews of Egypt displayed at the Underwood & Underwood exhibition.

Century-old images of Ancient Egyptian monuments were displayed on Sunday at the “Egypt Stereoviews: Underwood & Underwood” event held at the American University in Cairo (AUC) and presented by the manager for Egyptology, Coptic and CEMEAC studies, Dr. Amr Omar.

Recording consists of Director of CEMEAC studies, Mark Muehlhaeusler introducing the event, a portion of Amr Omar’s lecture and interview, and an interview with an attendee.

Stereoviews were created in the late nineteenth century to project and display an illusion of 3D images. Elmer and Bert Underwood were one of the leading publishers and distributors of the views. As Omar explained, they “developed an extensive library of images,” which had “500,000 views and stereoviews” to be observed. Photographer for Caravan Newspaper, Suhayla El-Sheikh, on the significance of images and photography, expressed “through pictures, I can see how Egypt used to be and how it is now.”

Underwood & Underwood travelled to Egypt and took historically significant pictures, highlighting important features of Egyptian history. The lecture thus, aimed to review the images of Ancient Egyptian monuments before any modern-day excavations and reparations took place. According to AUC’s curator of university archives, photographs and cinema collections, Ola Seif, this is the first time these images are being exhibited.

Egyptologist Amr Omar pictured showing a 3D stereoview and discussing the history of stereoviews at the Underwood & Underwood exhibition.

The lecture started off with Omar handing out 3D glasses to the audience and having them look at an image of old-Egypt. The point was to highlight how 3D-images are modernly viewed as opposed to stereographs, where people had two 2D images placed next to each other and had to look through two wooden binocular-like holes.

Images were displayed and discussed ranging from rural Egyptian views to Islamic mosques and religious heritages to Ancient Egyptian temples, monuments and artefacts. “The historical value of these photographs make them very, very special,” Omar stated.

Omar pointed out the role of AUC in all of this, that when Underwood & Underwood closed down in 1975, the former president of the university, Richard Pederson, bought these images and it is now available at the Rare Books and Special Collections Library.

Senior anthropology student, Dalia Habib, shared her thoughts on the display saying she enjoyed looking at the pictures and that she would like to come again to read the captions of the images. She added, on the advertising and publicity of the event, that “I think it was really well done.”

The exhibit has over 50 stereoviews displayed and will remain open until November 12, 2015.

A panoramic scenery of the stereoview displays and audience at the Underwood & Underwood exhibition. (View additional images)