The Smithsonian Institute offers a way to view these images as they were originally intended, by quickly alternating between the left and right frame
"The famous Relay House, on the Baltimore and Ohio R.R."
Photo: The Smithsonian Institution
Believe it or not, 3D photography has been in existence since 1838, when the first stereoscope was developed by Charles Wheastone, a British inventor who realized that the "3D-effect" is the result of our eyes seeing from two slightly different points of view. By the 1890's sterescopes were as common in homes as TV's are today--so it comes as no surprise that there were literally thousands upon thousands of stereoscopic images produced during the Civil War-era.
Unfortunately for us, these days, very few people own or even know what a stereoscope is. Realizing this, the Smithsonian Institute took it upon themselves to create a way for viewers to experience the original intended 3D-look of these images, from the comfort of their own homes, without the stereoscope. By creating an animated gif, that quickly alternates between the left and right image, viewers are given a whole new perspective of what life was really like during the Civil War--it only took 150 years to figure it out.
For more stereoscopic images, head to collections.si.edu.