Hidden Features: Microphotography

Boston Children’s Museum collects and houses many unique artifacts and specimens from around the world. Sometimes, we find artifacts with hidden unique features. In one of the many shelves in collection’s storage, there sits a Swiss chalet model, measuring roughly 2 inches tall, among a drawer of other Swiss miniatures. On the front of the model, the words “Rigi Kaltbad” are carved. Upon searching “Rigi Kaltbad” online, I learned that it is a historic resort area in the Swiss Alps. This little model, which was donated in 1942, was likely a souvenir novelty acquired on someone’s travels in Switzerland. One of the model’s interesting features includes its roof flipping to the side to uncover an area for an inkwell, but the chimney contains the hidden unique feature.

    

A very small piece of glass is situated in the chimney, and by holding the glass to a light source and then looking into the chimney, it reveals 4 microphotographs! For each image, they measure about 1 millimeter wide, which is about the size of a pencil’s tip. These types of viewing devices are called Stanhopes and were invented by René Dagron around 1857. Stanhopes came in an array of objects from pens, rings, pendants, and many other objects.

View from the back of the chimney glass, where 4 microphotographs are seen.

The 4 microphotographs in our object display and label areas of the Swiss Alps including Rigi Kaltbad, Rigi Staffel, Schnurtobel-Brücke, and Rigi Känzli. When searching those labels online, I found similar historic images of these areas from the early 1900s that match the sites and imagery in the microphotographs. I then experimented with trying to capture the 4 photographs. Since the museum does not have a microscope with the ability to take pictures, I went through a trial and error process to find the best way to capture the 4 microphotographs. I attempted different angles and lighting with a macro lens and even the museum’s exhibit microscope component, Scope on a Rope, but unfortunately none of those options worked. Lastly, I decided to try and use my iPhone, and surprisingly, it worked better than the other options! Explore the images and video below as you take a virtual peak at a Stanhope!

    

    

 

Source:

The Focal Encyclopedia of Photography: Digital Imaging, Theory and Applications, History, and Science by Michael R. Peres

 

2 responses

  1. Thanks for your interest! I previously used this object for a display, and noticed the glass piece in the chimney. I wasn’t sure what to make of the bit of glass, until I went back into our records. The old records indicated that there were 4 tiny pictures in the chimney. I then realized it was a Stanhope, and you had to look into the glass viewer in the chimney in order to see the pictures!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s