Blog Archives

The Paint By Numbers Museum

It’s Monday! Last week was Easter and April Fools’ Day, so as you might imagine not much news — real news, anyway — was coming up at the end of the week. And I don’t have an iPad to unbox, so I’ll look back into my queue to see some things I haven’t covered yet… maybe something a little unusual since it’s a Monday. Ah! I have it… the Paint by Numbers Museum at

I wasn’t aware that Paint by Number kits had such a long and specific history. This site steps you through a lot of it. It’s laid out like a museum; when you get to the front page you have the option to go straight to a search engine, to a couple of major exhibits, or to the “Lobby.” The lobby points you toward all the exhibits, the search engine again, and the “Library” (which is a categorized link list.)

I normally go straight to the search but I recommend visiting the exhibits and galleries first — here you can get a history of paint by numbers, a biography of the man who started it all, other notable people in the world of paint by numbers, and galleries of specific artist work.

Now, to be honest, I didn’t expect much. What I remembered of paint by numbers is that they were crude and not very artistic and in short pure cheese. But these were quite good, very artistic. The exhibits have thumbnail images of completed artworks with larger image views for each one, along with a little bit more detail. (Some of the pictures themselves had crazy amounts of detail.) No wonder paint by numbers ended up as an exhibit at the Smithsonian.

If you would rather search than browse, the search engine lets you search by keyword, title, or kit series (there are additional tabs that let you search catalogs and kits.) A blank search nets you over *1200* results so there’s a lot to see here. A search for Paris found sixty results, and a search for dance found over 160. Results have thumbnails and clicking on them takes you to the information page; unfortunately not all the images are equally good (I was confused at getting a black-and-white picture in one of my search results, only to find that was the only image available.

One of the more eye-opening sites I’ve looked at in a while, put together by someone who clearly knows (and loves!) the topic!

60+ Years of Radio Shack Catalogs

I’ve been hearing a lot of noises lately about Radio Shack and Best Buy hooking up, so what better time to mention Radio Shack Catalogs at This site is an online archive of Radio Shack catalogs from 1939 to 2005.

The front page has a number of catalog-related menu items — there are general catalogs, computer catalogs, and “other”; along with the catalog links there’s history, forums, and — seriously — over 100 Radio Shack commercials, dating back to 1970.

But I’m here for the catalogs, so — going to the main catalog section there are spaces for every year catalogs were produced from 1939 to 2003, and only three — 1946, 1947, and 1948 — are missing. Each catalog has a large and small format that’s presented in a Flash-based “flip book.” (If you don’t know whether to view the large or small, check out the instructions. I have a pretty big monitor the large was a little too tall.) The catalogs were wonderfully easy to browse and loaded quickly.

The computer catalogs don’t go back as far, as you might expect, but this site still has them from 1977 to 1992. There’s also a set of miscellaneous computer catalogs from Radio Shack and a few issues of “Answers” magazine. The miscellaneous catalogs section was an unexpected treat; items included a Christmas catalog from the 1950s (Radio Shack used to seriously sell some vinyl) and the 1977 sale catalog (so groovy!)

If you’re any kind of computer nut you could spend hours here wallowing in nostalgia. But if somehow it’s not enough for you, there’s a link list of other Radio Shack-related sites. I think I’ll stay here, browsing through the catalogs…

Theme Park Brochures

A big thank you to we Love You So for the pointer to the theme park maps collection, which in turn led to the pointer for Theme Park Brochures, which is exactly what you think it is — a collection of theme park brochures.

It’s available at

I don’t have a count of the number of brochures here — several dozen? A hundred? The front page sorts the brochures both by date (there are a few that go back to the 50s) and alphabetically. Click on an item and you’ll get a page with links to scanned in parts of the brochure — this 1972 Opryland Brochure comes in eight parts so you can fully appreciate the groovy illustrations and ticket price list.

As We Love You So noted, there are other parts to this site, including the maps list (this one goes back to 1931!, link list (nice annotation), a substantial list of roller coaster builders and another one of roller coaster clubs (for coaster enthusiasts). Great browse.

GazoPa Gets In Bloom

You might be familiar with GazoPa, a Web site that allows you to find similar images based on an image you provide. (It’s available at; I wrote about it in ResearchBuzz last November.) GazoPa is releasing a new service that’s much more focused: it’s all about flowers.

Hitachi America announced private beta at GazoPa Bloom yesterday. You can sign up for an invitation at This site is for exploring flower images and, if you need help identifying a flower, uploading images and letting other people try to identify them for you.

The front page has a bloom of the day, links for popular flower images (“popular” is relative — the site doesn’t appear that busy yet) and of course a search engine to search by keyword or a mechanism to upload images. I did a search for gardenia.

I got two kinds of results. The first kind was a classification result that showed general information about gardenias, including classification and a link to a Wikipedia article. The second kind was a set of five photographs showing gardenias.

The photo comes from Flickr as does some information about it. The community weighs in on what it thinks the bloom is and you are
free to disagree if you wish. What’s interesting is that GazoPa also suggests what it thinks the flower is — in the case of this image GazoPa thought it was an anemone. The site also shows images that are similar in shape, color, or overall. All the images I looked at came from Flickr.

I’m not a big gardener but I thought this was an interesting use of GazoPa technology. There will have to be a lot more traffic to see how it really works in practice, however. You know what I’d really like to see for a GazoPa niche engine? Cars. Can you imagine all the dozens of different brands of cars, with the hundreds and hundreds (thousands?) of year models, grouped by similar shape and color?

Ghostsigns in the UK

Ready for a big wall of advertising nostalgia? How about over 600 big walls? An article in last week’s Guardian looks at the Ghostsigns Archive, a new offering from the History of Advertising Trust. This archive tracks painted advertising on buildings across the UK.

It looks like the official site is but you can browse the signs at Signs are divided into several categories including Medical & Health, Food & Drink, and Shoes & Clothing.

Choose a category and you’ll get a gallery of signs with thumbnails. Detail pages include location, photographer, date taken, and a transcription of the sign if it’s necessary. I like how there’s a little thumbnail of the gallery so you can continue browsing from detail pages.

Since the idea is to document signage painted on buildings, and a lot of that signage is very old, the images vary a lot in quality. Some of them look like they were painted yesterday and some of them are barely readable.

If you want a larger pool of images than what’s here, you can get over 3700 (though perhaps not categorized as well) at the Ghostsigns Flickr group. And if you’re really interested in ghost signs, you can download a download a Google Spreadsheet of Ghostsigns Archive ad locations.

100 Years of Irish History in 34,000 Photographs

Just in time for Saint Patrick’s Day! had a story yesterday morning about an expanded archive from the National Library of Ireland. This site contains 34,000 photographs of Ireland covering 1860 to 1954, and is available at

That URL is actually a pointer to several different archives, from the Clarke Collection (“76 images, showing Dubliners in their city between 1897 and 1904,”) to the Lawrence Royal & Cabinet Collections (“19,331 images from a collection of commercially produced photographs taken between 1870 and 1914, showing topographical scenes throughout Ireland,”) to the Tempest Collection (“41 images, showing scenes from county Louth in the early part of the twentieth century.”)

Pick a collection and and you’ll get a gallery-type set of thumbnails with brief descriptions. Click a thumbnail and you’ll get a much larger version of the picture along with a few more details, including date, source, and rights.

I enjoyed exploring all the available images, especially as some of them are pretty weird. Occasionally I did wish for even larger images than what was available, but as these were photographs I had a bit of luck downloading them to my own computer, opening them in my graphics editor, and zooming in on them that way. A fun site to visit. Please note, though, that today being what it is, you might find that the site loads a bit slowly.

Everybody Must Get — No, It’s Too Easy

I will not give in to the easy puns! But I will give in to the urge to stare at shiny rocks. Soooo shiny… the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) has launched The Gem Project, available at This site is based on the data from the Edward J. Gübelin collection of gemstones and it’s an interesting mix of browsable information and downloadable PDF. According to a story in National Jeweler, about 1,000 of the stones in the Gübelin collection have had data cataloged.

From the front page of the site you can choose to browse beryls, corundums, garnets, spinels, or tourmalines. Picking a category of stone will give you a list of specimens from that category; I’d say there were about fifty total. Each item listed has a brilliant picture, but to get details about it you have to click on the item number, which gives you the option to download a PDF file!

The PDF files I looked at were two pages with a description of the item, gemological properties, and photomicrograph data. (Today’s word, kids, is diaphaneity.)

I found the gem collection interesting but too-brief — I was left wanting to explore more data. In addition to this new Gem Project, the GIA also has a free archive of its Gems & Gemology publication, with the issues spanning 1934-1980. And if you’re looking for something a little less high-level, visit the page on grading diamonds and colored stones, or the visual resource library for educators.


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