By Adam B. Vary
Updated March 08, 2002 at 05:00 AM EST

(americanhistory.si.edu/paint) Who knew that those innocuous paint-by-number kits were once a national pastime as popular as they were… controversial? Visitors to the Smithsonian’s online exhibit documenting this peculiar prefab art form can learn how it evolved from its populist peak in the 1950s to a kitschy joke in the ’60s to ”serious” art in the ’70s and beyond. Our favorite clickable nugget: a Swiss landscape executed by none other than J. Edgar Hoover. Like we said, who knew?

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