In the sea of obsolete digital storage, you never know where gems are hiding. The Andy Warhol Museum unearthed a pretty big discovery when it realized that digital doodles by the artist were sitting on floppy disks in the museum’s archival storage.
Created by Warhol on a Commodore Amiga in the mid-1980s, the images include many of Warhol’s classic aesthetics and depict things like bananas, Marilyn Monroe, and Campbell’s soup. The museum only realized it had the images when artist Cory Arcangel happened to see a YouTube clip of Warhol working with digital photos of Debbie Harry in 1985 to promote the release of the Amiga 1000.
Members of the Carnegie Mellon University Computer Club and the Frank-Ratchye STUDIO for Creative Inquiry had to devise a careful plan to extract Warhol’s files from the disks. Amber Morgan, the collection manager at the Warhol Museum, said in a press release, “Up until now, we have only been able to address the computer disks themselves, and not the content held within them. This project has enabled us to safely extract the data.”
Watching Warhol gingerly put his hand on the mouse and control the computer in the video clip is an apt metaphor for the societal transition that was taking place at the time. For the rest of us, our early digital scribbles may not be as valuable or as fascinating as Warhol’s, but they were just as exciting to make.