The cabinet echoes but reverses the early museum phenomenon of the cabinet of curiosities. It was a mix of collected objects designed to inspire awe and wonder in the natural or ‘foreign world’. A step up form the individual cabinet were places such as the Egyptian Hall, on Piccadilly.
A whole building modelled on Egyptian Architecture and containing wonders and mysterious objects from an Ancient lost world (Petrie’s finds amongst them). A place described in the Punch article from 1849, which adorns the cabinet, describes the umbrella stand in the Egyptian Hall as the source of the Nile. The visitors to the hall following the water from the rain sodden umbrellas on an imaginary journey down the Nile.
Akin to our virtual tourism and investigations through google earth street view or instagram, the Victorians invented many new ways of looking at the world.
The zoetrope was an early form of cinema, whose origins can be traced back to china yet first emerged in Europe in 1837. The ancient Egyptians had explored how to capture movements cave drawings and stele -inscribed stone panels. Detailed sketches depicting a series of movements. The zoetrope took drawn images or early images by photographer by Eduard Muybridge and animated them by placing them in a spinning drum with holes cut in the sides. The hole size relating to the amount of images and the speed at which the drum was turned. Viewed from the side the images are brought to life and appear to be moving, an early precursor to cinema.
The Rolling Panorama
The panorama of the Nile is taken from Google Earth, the sphinx and pyramids can be clearly seen along with boats on the Nile. Such roll- ing Panoramas were another method for those who could not travel to Egypt to experience what it was like. Joseph Bonomi who had travelled with Flinders Petrie and Howard Carter, as an artist recording finds and digs, also drew a many sketches of the Nile. On his return to England he turned these sketches into a giant rolling Panorama, shown in the Egyptian Hall.
On the bottom shelf of the cabinet there is to be found a stereoscope and a selection original slides from the book of 1905 ‘Egypt through the stereoscope’ by James Henry Breasted PhD. Each slide corresponded with a detailed description of the view that was seen. The stereoscope tricks the brain that it is seeing one image not two, in- creasing the depth of field. Giving the viewer an illusion that they are their receiving an expert guided view. Scattered amongst the original slides are those found on instagram under the hash tag Nile, some of which could be mistaken for the originals.
How to view:
First place your chosen slide scene in the metal stand of the hand held stereoscope.
Secondly position in front of your eyes – quick tip is to look at it through cross-eyes or try and relax your focus into the middle distance.
Now, the viewing rays or axis of your eyes should meet or cross at the image and as a consequence, the left eye sees the half image mounted on the right side of the pair behind the pen and vice versa.
Try and keep the divider lined up with the centre of the slide, be patient it takes practice.