Archiving “Artful Accidents”

| September 5, 2014
title page, hand

“Toward a Science of Comparative Education” title page, with hand captured in the image



Stumbling across this image recalled to mind the 2013 essay on The Artful Accidents of Google Books, written by poet and scholar Kenneth Goldsmith and featured on the Page Turner blog of The New Yorker in 2013. Goldsmith comments on the small, burgeoning art scene that documents digitization “artful accidents,” such as a hand appearing on top of a scanned page, or a warped scan of a page. (He points to the The Art of Google Books Tumblr for more examples of visually interesting digitization mistakes.)

Goldsmith notes that because Google scans such a vast quantity of books at such a high rate, “the company can’t possibly identify and correct all of the disturbances … There’s little doubt that generations to come will be stuck with both these antique stains and workers’ hands.”

Additionally, in focusing on “the hands” behind Google Books, Goldsmith also raises awareness of the people scanning these books—often people of color, working in a separate building on the Google campus. (The artist Andrew Norman Wilson‘s work is also discussed in this context.)