New Rievaulx Abbey Exhibition celebrates 100 years of care

Rare images and documents from the Victorian age will go on show to offer a new perspective on Rievaulx Abbey

Late 19th century stereogram of two women posing in the overgrown infirmary cloister

A new exhibition of rare photographs and documents showing Rievaulx Abbey through the years will open on June 16.

Rievaulx Abbey came into the care of the Office of Works (a predecessor of English Heritage) in 1917. Rievaulx Reviewed will celebrate the century by highlighting the transformation of the abbey from the overgrown ruins of the 1870s to the manicured monument of today.

We're giving visitors the chance to use the Victorian's answer to 'virtual reality' by showing the ruins in 3D with the aid of stereoscopes.

A 21st century version of the Victorian stereoscope with stereograms. Visitors can have a go as part of the exhibition.

What is a stereoscope?

A stereoscope is a binocular apparatus used to view photographic slides, called stereograms. Two photographs taken from slightly different angles are mounted alongside each other and viewed through a set of lenses which create a 3D effect.

The stereoscope was invented in the the 1830s and will play a leading role in the exhibition. Exhibition visitors will be given their own stereoscope and a pack of slides to use as they tour the site.

The exhibition has been praised by Dr Brian May, co-owner of the London Stereoscope Company and Queen's lead guitarist. May's company has supplied the stereoscopes to show how the Victorians viewed Rievaulx.

May says:

'My devotion to stereos, rather like my passion for rock music, now spans at least 55 years,' he says.

'3D gave you a feeling of reality, rather than just a flat rendition on a piece of paper. So I wondered, why didn't everybody photograph everything in 3D all the time? Well, I still haven't figured that one out.

'To me, and to all the kids who discovered over 50 years ago what is now known as 'virtual reality', the excitement has never left us.'

Dr Brian May, avid support of the stereoscope and Queen's lead guitarist

100 years of care

In the summer of 1917, the abbey passed into the care of the state and now, through an archive of photographs and documents, the exhibition charts the site's journey from the 1870s to the 1930s.

Rievaulx Abbey remains one of England's best preserved Cistercian monasteries.

Rievaulx Reviewed will run until 5 November. Find out more about the exhibition visit our events page.

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