Auto History and Competing Interests — Why It Shouldn’t Happen . . .
And What We Can Do About It
Every day, those of us involved in the preservation of automotive history, stumble across material held by private interests, museums, libraries, archives, public trusts and the like. We “stumble across it” because the only way to discover it is by hugely complex detective work. Why?
Worse, even if we were to discover a cache of materials related to a specific subject, it’s very likely that other related materials — perhaps even part of the same collection — will be unmentioned or seemingly unknown to the located repository or the discoverer.
It is maddening to find that one small piece of information — tantalizing and exciting is found, only to discover that the remaining and sometimes critical data is gone or in some inaccessible location.
Building a Global Index
Why can’t we, with little effort, develop an index that would determine where information that auto enthusiasts, researchers, auto writers, students and educators could use?
It would seem, in this day of “data mining”, that an index of materials could be created and published — letting interested parties know where materials are, what format they are in and how they might be accessed. The index wouldn’t have to be detailed. It could contain: the name of specific item, the automotive brand it was related to, the name of the collection where it is located, the type of material (paper or digital — original or copy), how it may be accessed (via web with URL if available), by e-mail request, and, if necessary, how to contact the repository. This index would be simple, with one or two line entries — just enough for the searcher to determine if this material would be of interest.
Easy, right? We all get together, we all submit what we have, put it in someplace on the Internet, and we’re ready to go! Well, not so much. This has never happened — not attempted, not started, not even discussed. There are many reasons for this, and we’ll attempt to discuss them here.