Video: Before smartphones or mobile VR there were precious few ways for your eyes to feast on a far off land. The View-Master was one of the best ones. It could transport a person anywhere – provided they had the imagination and the patience to thumb through the dozens of slides on a View-Master wheel. Rebecca Kilbreath had that patience, and has amassed one of the larger collections of View-Masters and View-master reels.
When it was released in 1939, the View-Master was a window into the world for people who didn’t have TVs at home or couldn’t travel to faraway places. Kilbreath’s reels allow her a glimpse into places that no longer exist or images that wouldn’t be acceptable today, such as a dolphin jumping through a hoop of fire at an amusement park in Canada.
Now Kilbreath scours eBay and antique stores hunting down old reels and the last few View-Masters she still needs for her collection. There were only around 30 models ever produced and Kilbreath has 25.
Kilbreath, who is the editor-in-chief of Restaurant Development+ Design magazine, studied film and library sciences. She puts those two degrees to good use cleaning, storing and cataloguing the 1500 reels she’s collected onto an enormous, ever-growing spreadsheet that is open to all who share her passion for the toy.