and Ford Could lead the way . . . but . . .
To a great hue and cry, and on the anniversary of the Company, Ford is releasing a ton of materials to the public in digital format. Great! But is it really?
Oh, releasing the materials is a wonderful idea, but it goes back to how archaic and stunted the process of access to history is in our modern world. The way Ford is going forward exposes a huge flaw in how most archival institutions treat their documentation and unfortunately, how we accept this process.
I am excited about Ford’s move, and hope it will continue into the future. But frankly, as wonderful and “generous” Ford’s release of this information is — if you take a close look at it — it is doling out what they feel is significant, not what you may think is so.
I know that the people at Ford will likely be insulted by what I say and likely respond with, “how can you be so ungrateful?”, but the fact is that what you see is going to be their choice — not yours. It’s like going to a soup kitchen and receiving candy when you really need a full meal.
Others of you are going to say, “how dare you criticize Ford? They are being so generous!” Well, I feel I can because I know the whole process is flawed. Why? Because you should have access to ALL their archival documentation of your choosing — not of theirs. If I see a 1965 Mustang Brochure, is that the only version in their collection? Maybe I know (and I do) that the Brochure Ford released was the 1964 version, and that the 1965 model year version is different.
How do I know this? Because the Automotive History Preservation Society’s digital library treats our content differently. At the Society’s Library, all material available is visible and downloadable without human intervention! You do not have to wait for someone to dole out the material, nor do you have to ask “Do you have?” If the Society has it you can search for it, see it and download it.
But most archives have not adopted this approach. They are still thinking as we did 50 years ago, where human intervention was necessary to withdraw and present a physical paper document for you to see. Many organizations who have gone to digitizing materials still force you to ask for the material or…