There is a web page I liked called “The Art of Google Books.” Basically what the person who produces this page does is to look through books that have been scanned by Google and to find “art.” Usually this comes in the form of images from pages where “mistakes” were made in the scanning process.

In doing research, I’ve always felt that there is a lot of art in the archive. Sometimes archival documents are works of art, such as this document in hand-written Thai.

Thai

At other times, however, I have found that the art comes in forms that are similar to the kind of art that “The Art of Google Books” displays – a stain on a page, a scribbled remark, designs in a page left from insects that have eaten their way through the book, etc.

One of my favorite forms of art in the archive however, appears on microfilm. Sometimes when microfilm starts to warp or disintegrate it can produce interesting images. And at other times you have images like the one below, a mark left by the person who made a reel of microfilm of documents from the US consulate in Manila in the late nineteenth century.

microfilm

Stumbling across works of art like these is one of the side benefits of doing research on Southeast Asian history.