Images of ancient Calabrian-Sicilian earthquakes from a stereoscopic viewer of the early 20th century. The ethics behind a natural disaster photo-gallery

Franco Foresta Martin, Silvia Peppoloni, Patrizia Tosi, Valerio De Rubeis, Paola Sbarra, Sonia Topazio


This research was inspired by an old stereoscopic viewer from the early 1900s, containing 42 glass slides depicting scenes from two Italian earthquakes that struck Southern Calabria and Eastern Sicily in the years 1894 and 1905, causing hundreds of deaths, but whose memory was blurred by the subsequent, great earthquake of the Messina Straits of December 28, 1908. The sequence of three-dimensional images shown by the viewer gave a deep and realistic visual impact to scenes of collapses, debris, and victims, arousing feelings of dismay. In this work, we describe the viewer apparatus; the places depicted in the stereoscopic plates, and the seismic phenomena that caused the disasters. But above all, we investigate the social and cultural aims that pushed to show the effects of local earthquakes through this kind of primitive multimedia mechanism. We exclude that the viewer, with its photographic equipment, was merely an instrument of entertainment. We rather assume that it carried out an educational task. The repetition of the sequence of tragic images of earthquakes through the stereoscopic viewer had the purpose of contributing to give awareness of the looming seismic risk and to accept rationally those recurring disasters.


History of Seismology; Sicily and Calabria Earthquakes; Macroseismic Studies; Stereoscopic Viewer; Observational Seismology

Full Text:




Published by INGV, Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia - ISSN: 2037-416X