A revolving spectacle that’s over one hundred years’ old
A Kaiserpanorama is a large round wooden box that allows twenty-five people to view a series of stereoscopic photographs at the same time. When viewed through special stereoscopic viewers, the photographs appear three-dimensional. The photographs are housed in a wooden carrousel that is turned by a creaking mechanism. FOMU is privileged to own one of only fifteen surviving Kaiserpanoramas in the world.
As the 19th century drew to a close, Europeans had increasingly more leisure time and money. The social scene was exploding, and people were looking for amusement. The Kaiserpanorama promised a new form of “education and entertainment”.
A Kaiserpanorama is a large round wooden box that allows twenty-five people to view a series of stereoscopic photographs at the same time. When viewed through special stereoscopic viewers, the photographs appear three-dimensional. The photographs are housed in a wooden carrousel that is turned by a creaking mechanism.
The German physicist August Fuhrmann (1844-1925) patented the Kaiserpanorama in 1888. Kaiserpanoramas began to appear in all the major European cities, including Antwerp and Brussels. They were seen as a cheap and easy way to see the world. For example, you could take a stroll in Rome, consisting of fifty images, while seated. People could view a new presentation every week and, for the first time ever, the experience was collective. For a few years, the Kaiserpanorama was one of the most popular attractions in Europe – until cinema took over.
FOMU is privileged to own one of only fifteen surviving Kaiserpanoramas in the world. Furthermore, the design differs from the Fuhrmann model and bears the initials of the famous Antwerp photographer Joseph Maes (1838-1908).
The FOMU Kaiserpanorama has an interesting history. Maes delivered it to the Royal Zoological Society of Antwerp (KMDA) in 1905. That same year, it was exhibited at the Liege World’s Fair with stereoscopic photographs of Antwerp Zoo. It was placed in the zoo’s festival hall after the fair ended. In 1910, it travelled to the Brussels World’s Fair and in 1911 to the Paris World’s fair. It is not known whether the panorama was shown again after the First World War.
In 1975, the Kaiserpanorama was donated to the Provincial Museums of Antwerp. It was stored in wooden boxes. When it was moved to its current location of the photography museum, the boxes were opened for the first time since the donation. The panorama was put on show when FOMU opened its doors in 1986, and again from 2004 to 2011.
An extensive research project and several restorations later, the panorama is back on show in all its original glory. The carrousel had begun to grind as it turned, and the stereoscopic images were no longer nicely aligned with the viewers. The viewers themselves were in poor condition and the varnish on the panels had worn off in several places.
The panels have now been cleaned and revarnished. Missing wooden elements were remade and broken ones were repaired. The stereoscopic viewers were cleaned and remounted. The motor, which had been replaced in the 1980s, was exchanged for a new one. The arm support was reupholstered in a green fabric. 1980s light fittings were replaced by fire-resistant porcelain. One major alteration was to make the carrousel rotate separately from the old wooden structure in order to preserve the original material for as long as possible. We want everyone to be able to experience the spectacle and magic of the Kaiserpanorama.
With thanks to: Leen Engelen (UA), B-magic, Cleo Cafmeyer, Etoile Mecanique, Kir Waldukat, Chris Pype & Atelier Boba.
The Kaiserpanorama is back on show at FOMU!
Would you like to see this unique machine in action? The Kaiserpanorama is set in motion every first Sunday of the month in the exhibition Grace Ndiritu Reimagines the FOMU Collection.
Video: Sandrine Colard about Recaptioning Congo
In this video, curator Sandrine Colard takes Marie-France Vodikulwakidi (VICE) on a tour in the Recaptioning Congo exhibition at FOMU.
FOMU lends works Man Ray to MoMu
From 22 April through 13 August 2023, MoMu will be highlighting the oeuvre of Man Ray from the perspective of fashion. The exhibition Man Ray and Fashion features some of Man Ray's works that FOMU has in its collection.
Video Grace Ndiritu Reimagines the FOMU Collection
Ndiritu’s art practice explores our rapidly changing world. She sees shamanism as a means to reactivate ‘the dying art museum’: "I believe that museums are important platforms."
Susan meiselas: video and interview
On the occasion of the exhibition Mediations, Susan Meiselas talks to Jeu de Paume about her life and work.
Alice Pallot & Ugo Woatzi on show in Camera Italy
.tiff photographers Alice Pallot (2022) and Ugo Woatzi (2021) are selected for the exhibition 'On The Verge: Seven Young European Photographers' in CAMERA Turin.
Recaptioning Congo is one of the Best Art Books from 2022 according to The New York Times
Recaptioning Congo - the book that accompanies the exhibition of the same name at FOMU - has been hailed in The New York Times as one of the best art books of 2022.
On How Vincen Beeckman Became Part of My Life
"Talking about who Vincen is, and especially what his work is, without talking about the connections created by his work is pointless". Curator Rein Deslé writes about Vincen Beeckman.
Meggy Rustamova, Nick Geboers and Maryan Sayd awarded FOMU Grants
The FOMU Grant creates a fertile ground for photographers based in Flanders to further their artistic careers. It consists of a commission for new work, a presentation in the museum, and the purchase of the work for the collection.
A Map Through Time: Grace Ndiritu Reimagines the FOMU Collection
A Quest For Meaning is an encyclopaedic endeavour – the story of the universe since the Big Bang told in photographs. (Hettie Judah)