These GIFs From The Smithsonian Archives Make History Come To Life

The charm of a perfect looping image cannot be denied. Old timey illustrations are delightful nostalgia inducers. Pair 'em together and hot damn: That is a recipe for sure-fire internet love. Drawing from seemingly endless stores of digitized archives, the Smithsonian Libraries have been posting original gifs on their Tumblr, and—spoiler alert—they're wonderful.


From The Teacher of Sparring (1886)

Margaret Rhodes at Wired Design had a chat with technical information specialist (and obvious Photoshop maestro) Richard Naples, who combs through the Smithsonian's digitized libraries—a vast collection of volumes totaling upwards of 14 million pages—and picks out the pics with the most potential for GIFable goodness: simple backgrounds are clutch, as well as the ability to "tell a little story."

From "The Greenland Whale" in Whales by Robert Hamilton (1843)

The result is a delightful glimpse at media that might have languished—first in inaccessible print archives, and second in an online forum that's almost so mind-blowingly large that it would be tough to know where to begin to browse.

From The Works of Jules Verne (1911)

Even though there are tons of cultural institutions putting their art on the internet, this is a super clever way to give an engaging little nudge to folks who are interested, but who might not be inclined to dig deep.


Someone more jaded than I might wonder whether the only way to interest today'z kidz in the past is to give it some kind of modern makeover, but I'm all for it. These have just the right amount of goofy Monty Python style Gilliam-ism with a touch of Scorpion Dagger and Georges Méliés for good measure—they're just so damn fun to watch. And as a way to pique interest in the source material, it's a pretty brilliant approach.


From Scrapbook of Early Aeronautica collected by William Upcott

I already want to delve into the Scrapbook of Early Aeronautica to find out more about that floating elephant and winged Walking Philosopher.


From the Scrapbook of Early Aeronautica collected by William Upcott

Follow a scroll through these, follow up with a Drunk History binge and we'll all be scholars soon enough. [Wired Design; Flavorwire; Smithsonian Libraries]


Lead image from Pratique de la Guerre by Francis Malthus (1681)


(hums Monty Python Theme [aka The Liberty Bell] while watching GIFS)