The National Institute of Standards and Technology is asking the public to help them identify a bunch of gear in their digital collection that their experts cannot figure out. As io9 put it, the NIST "doesn't just produce technical specifications for everything from wifi to voting machines - they also have a digital archive devoted to the study of early technology."

The mystery machines, which come from the NIST's collection of scientific instruments in Gaithersburg, Maryland, are mostly from the 19th and early 20th centuries.

"We have some artifacts in our collection we want to identify, so we thought we could exhibit them online and ask for help," said NIST Digital Services Librarian Regina Avila. "It was fun to photograph them, but challenging. Some artifacts were broken, others had missing pieces. Some were heavy and others were fragile."

Currently, 137 artifacts are on the site, and hundreds more will be added in the coming months.

The unidentified objects come with some really stylish names. To wit:

Instrument with Eight Dials Set in Wooden Frame

Black Cylindrical Instrument with Small Round Window Set on Tripod

Metal Instrument in Wood Case

Photos from NIST Digital Archive | additional sources: PopSci