To the jubilation of many, Ford Motor Company has announced that it will digitize some of the treasured material from its storied past and make it available for public consumption. To accomplish the project, the Ford Motor Company’s archiving operations (Ford Archives) have joined forces with The Henry Ford, also known as the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village, or — more formally — the Edison Institute. Together, the two will make material available on www.TheHenryFord.org beginning in 2014.
You see, the one one quality for which (the) Henry Ford might not be well-known was the ability to meticulously collect and document events. According to a Ford Motor Company news release, Henry and his wife Clara “were essentially amateur archivists” who diligently collected artifacts from their lives. This tradition continues today at the automaker’s archives, which house the company’s unique history.
Upholding Henry’s vision, the museum as well as company archives tell the story of the Ford Motor Company thanks to “thousands of cubic feet of photographs, films, documents, advertisements, press materials, product brochures, and more.” Until today, most of these prized items could only be seen by a select few people in person, as they were not open to the public.
As part of the new plan, select historic items from the archives and the museum will be digitized and organized into collections that will be made available on the internet, for everyone’s consumption. According to the automaker, the initiative will “focus on digitizing key assets from collections such as The Henry Ford Office Papers”, which consist of documents that passed over the desk of the automaker’s celebrated founder for nearly half a century. The immense physical size of these materials is best illustrated by the fact that just this collection alone fills over 1,600 cubic feet of space.
Selections from the following collections will be digitized:
- Letter signed by Henry Ford when he handed leadership of the company to his grandson Henry Ford II
- 450 rolls of film from the 1964-1965 New York World’s Fair
- Ford Mustang heritage photography
- Countless historic Ford and Lincoln advertising images
The Motrolix Take
This has been a long time coming, and it’s wonderful that it’s finally becoming a reality. Not only is there a significant amount of interesting (which is perhaps an understatement) material housed at The Henry Ford (an estimated tens of millions of documents, alone!), but the fact that it’s housed in a single place that’s not open to the public and that the valuable historic material isn’t available anywhere else is highly-concerning. In the digital space, that would be the equivalent of running a computer containing highly-important documents, and not having a backup.
We expect that making the assets available online to whoever desires to access them will allow Ford to connect in new ways to consumers while opening a new resource for researchers, historians, and journalists the world over.
Ultimately, the world will become a better place thanks to this initiative.