The Zoetrope was one of several precursors to modern films. It is made of spinning drums with slits that allowed the viewer to observe the subtly changing images inside, allowing the images to appear, to the observer, to run together and effectively become “animated”.
“Zoe” is a Greek prefix meaning “life” and “trope” means both “turning” and “turning into,” making a play on words that combine to mean it turns pictures into life. This design is based on the one created by a sophomore at Brown University, William E. Lincoln, in 1865 and later patented by Milton Bradley and widely sold as a toy.
Using strips of paper and markers, visitors can draw their own series of changing images, then place it in the zoetrope and use their muscles to set it spinning and get their creation moving!
This video shows a very well-done Zoetrope strip created by one of our younger visitors. Watch the crane’s arm move up and down, and notice how the timing of the slits in the Zoetrope passing by falls in and out of sync with the frame rate of the camera! This doesn’t happen when viewing with the eye, but is very noticeable when you take videos with a camera.