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As enthusiasts we all, on occasion, want to find information whether it is in a book, magazine or somewhere online. All of us have favorite resources and methods, but what seems to work the best for you? Do you try to visit libraries and archives personally? Do you have an extensive collection of books that provide what you need? Or do you simply rely on Google search (or some other search engine) to point you in the right direction?

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I rarely if ever use Google. Indexes of what has been printed in club publications have been researched and printed to a certain extent ( Franklin Club, CCCA, to name two that I am aware of) The Horseless Age magazine in and end of year issue in December each year would publish a listing of the articles they had in their magazine. I have collected periodicals ( usually auto show issues)  of MoToR, L'llustrasion, and then tried to fill in with other publications of the era I find most interesting ( WWI to WWII) and have taken the time ( decades) to seek them out, with friends both here in the USA and in Europe assistance and guidance. Non automotive periodicals can help as well that would mention what I want to research ( coach builders and their designers) There were also specific magazines in the era I am interested in that were "for the industry" and not a general news stand type of publications. I have some books that were written and published within the past 30-35 years that can be the starting point but then to focus on more detail you need to go elsewhere - manufacturers issued magazines specific to their cars they sent to owners ( Buick, Ford, Lincoln, Mercury , Studebaker etc. ) thing is you need to know what to ask for , be aware that the information or photos were actually published - that is where a personal visit to a collection may reap so far as what you need to seek. Most of what I have collected for my specific quest for information is not in any major library collection of automotive material. It has taken 55 years but I do have an extensive collection of material for what I like t research and write about. Where I do not have the material , I know mostly where to go to be able to access it.

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So Walt...Not knowing your age, what will happen to your collection in say 10-15 years? If someone that is 30 years old today would like to learn more about what you know, how would that person approach it or what would be your advice? Your knowledge of coachwork is an important aspect of our automotive history so future historians will want to have access to information so they can study it much the same way you have, except access will be an issue.

 

I'm currently in the midst of a research project for a publisher wanting to put together a comprehensive history of John Deere tractors. I thought early on when he and I talked, that certainly someone had done this already, but he explained that the history is spread throughout all kinds of publications (with no indexes, by the way), books detailing very specific models or eras and various enthusiast sites where the information might or might not be accurate. My job has been to confirm information, find information that might not be easily found and clear up discrepancies related to early tractor development. I never imagined how daunting that would be, discovering that this single company has built hundreds of models, has revised many of those during various model years, built versions I never heard of and made little effort, as a manufacturer, to archive all the details and minutiae we historians and writers crave to record every bit of information we can find.

What you've done is much like many of us have done...gathered everything we can find in the hopes we've found all there is. I've done the same as you, but I'm curious about those coming behind us. Will all those gathering efforts be lost? And will that information survive into the next millennia? I deeply appreciate your response.  

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Joe, Future people interested in what I am will have my articles etc to look upon ( and it isn't/wasn't  guess work, some people look at articles that were written 40 years ago as the gospel and often times if mistakes or misinformation is recorded if it is around long enough it becomes fact!) I have been slowly ( sorry Ruben!) working on an article as to where to look for information in period material for the SAH Journal. Takes time with all the interruptions! My own library/archive was scheduled to go to a car club ( at one time a major entity but now not so much with their fast dwindling membership) but that all came to a halt when after 46 years I left that club due to rude insults by the President and the lack of support of the majority of the board. Not sure where it will go now, AACA is a good possibility as they have the staff, who have the knowledge and the enthusiasm. Perhaps not all of it but some of it ( like the full run of the French OMNIA magazine from 1920 to 1936 - (it was a monthly) on coated stock paper and the best source for information and period images I know of for Europe- especially France).

A stable resting place is paramount, as is reasonably easy access for researchers, authors to get to.  As an example - the National Motor Museum in England at Beaulieu is extremely well run and organized, but a long long drive or train ride from major airports!  three plus decades ago I was there and even then it was a showcase of excellent management and cooperation. Preserving material is very very important, but if access is difficult then it is like it doesn't exist. AACA at Hershey I think is well located - not horrible to get to from Philadelphia or New York City ( closest major International airports) main highways near by, also if you have a family and they don't want to be bored while you look up stuff they can go to Hersheypark!

Not all period material is totally accurate - BUT it was reported and recorded in the era the vehicles were new, not some interpretation decades later, so I look at that as a significant factor.

Edited by Walt G (see edit history)
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Access is in the eye of the beholder, or something like that. I live in the center of the country so making a trip to the east coast just doesn't make sense unless I am researching a pretty big project that would require many hours in an archive I know is going to have everything I want. The problem is, I have no idea what the AACA Library actually holds as there is no search method that will give me an index of all the information they might have on say, a 1947 Hudson Big Boy 178 pickup. As the generations behind us begin searching for automotive information (please...I sincerely hope they do!) the expectation will be to find what they are looking for online, hopefully scanned into a form they can read (and search!) and download, if needed. I'm still curious what others are experiencing with information resources and now that you have noted it, where these wonderful collections that historians such as yourself, will place that information when it comes time to release it to a new caretaker. When I see literature collections being broken up into bits and pieces and going to places where it might not survive, I cringe. The biggest literature cache I wonder about currently is Walter Miller's Autolit.com (also his website Museum of Automobile Art and Design) which closed down in 2019 and his huge stash of literature is wasting away in his warehouse where no one has shown an interest in preserving. Scary, from my perspective, to witness the sad end to a career collecting up so much history only to have it placed (eventually) into a dumpster. Still hoping some younger (than me!) history buffs are out there that might offer some of their insight on this topic.

http://www.moaaad.org/about_mission_statement.php

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Location- material resides where it has been placed , either by bequest of the donor's estate, or in person by that downer, or by purchase by the library or someone who wants to donate it. So research is kind of like wanting to see a car collection - the collection will not relocate for your convenience or pleasure, you have to go to it. It took me years/decades to finally get to see the library at the National Motor Museum in England. Beaulieu is not near London where most people fly into and out of. It was many hours travel to get down to the SW corner of England to get to the museum to then request to see material, which was very kindly provided as well as a place to do so.

Joe you are in the mid west, I am on the east coast - I would love to spend more time visiting the library collections at the Henry Ford Museum and the Detroit public Library or even the Crawford Collection in Ohio. Won't happen until I am able to make a trip - same goes for the Simione collection and the AACA library in Pa. and the Rev's collection in Florida and countless other collections. They are where they are for their convenience, not yours!  I sincerely can appreciate your predicament , travel is costly, but that's what has to happen. most automotive libraries have a staff that really cares and knows what is there, but to scan it all for researchers and authors convenience isn't going to happen, not everything will ever be on line . The issue also comes up that much of the material is fragile and is getting more so, to plant it on a scanner and have the bright light hit the pages could be of concern as well. Lighting conditions affect printed material, especially fluorescent light can affect color - I saw this first hand when in art school and bringing in paintings that changed color under different light conditions - natural light shows the true color, artificial light - not so much. This is why people who mix paint for cars by eye do it in natural light not under fluorescent light.

Think of how sun light can fade paint on a car, interior colors on a car, the same happens to paper, even more so and most likely more rapidly.

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Great discussion!  Also, for a few months, several SAH members have been "meeting" on Zoom to keep auto history preservation active, primarily about coordinating digitization efforts.  Not a good idea to spend much effort and digitize Road & Track more than once!

We also have put together a guide to resources.  It's crude in its Google Sheets format, so we hope to get some expert advice eventually to transition to a database, accessible to anyone.  Also to have a "comments & corrections" function, for anyone to improve this resource.

This is it in "read only" format:

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1YqjEHHmVcUttsmNtPI_tUobXQMZhh1vbnljmVLtVuiw/edit?usp=sharing

and the general topic is at:

http://carlibrary.org/CarLibrary-AutoHistory.htm

Your comments are welcome!

There's a Zoom call today and we plan to meet every two weeks on Zoom.

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It would be difficult to add anything substantive to Walt's assessment. My automotive interest is in pre-WWI engineering more than specific makes though I do wander into the teens and early 20s at times. As Walt has already intimated, the internet is a VERY unreliable source of information. It is useful for locating sources but beyond that the only information that is absolutely reliable is primary information. Google Books can be useful for finding period publications like MoToR or Horseless Age...that, in itself, is very valuable source since complete collections of these early periodicals are rarely seen. That said, there isn't anything wrong with secondary sources IF... you are certain of them. The more you do this sort of thing the more you come to appreciate the work of specific authors who have proven to have consulted primary sources. One of the real shortcomings of many "hobby" historians (and some professionals as well) is expressing a guess as a fact. You must be VERY careful of this...it happens often and some of the "facts" that got into circulation via this route are nearly impossible to eradicate. There's an old Russian proverb that goes "tell a lie 100 times and it becomes the truth".

 

To address the original question, in pursuit of my interest I've bought just about every period book or manual I've seen on the subject. I have quite a few of them after 40 years of doing this and while I don't have everything it is rare that I can't find something useful on most subjects I'm interested in.

 

[Edit] I should add that much - perhaps most of my collection is not specifically automotive related. A large amount of the pertinent information is found in other sources – these were the books that the men who built the cars read...so the information I used to make the water pump gear for "Great White" came from Brown & Sharpe manuals on milling and gear making.

Edited by JV Puleo (see edit history)
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I have a collection of photographs, magazines and other period material that my Uncle and Dad started accumulating in the 50s and I have been adding to for 30 years.  I'm happy to share it with my friends and other researchers like Joe and Walt that I have a relationship with.   I will occasionally post something on here understanding that once it is up,  the world will be copying it.

Edited by alsancle (see edit history)
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