Phenakistoscopes, praxinoscopes, and zoetropes, oh my! Richard Balzer, a 69-year-old New York native, has cultivated a remarkable online museum of early animations and optical toys of the 18th and 19th centuries.
According to the Verge, the process of transforming a collection of physical ephemera into an online archive was arduous: Balzer worked with an LA animator for years to digitize just a fraction of his collection, which was accumulated over four decades in flea markets and antique shops all over the world. Those digital files are now available, in GIF form, on an excellent Tumblr devoted to the topic.
Balzer's archive is filled with the bizarre and uncanny: Children leap into lions' mouths in one 1870 zoetrope, in another from the same period, a smiling executioner decapitates Satan—to find another head growing in place of the old. Apparently, GIFs have been the arena of the weird for far longer than anyone imagined. [Dick Balzer Museum via Verge]