The Road & Track acquisition: The rest of the story

Experimental Lincoln from Ford Motor Company, Road & Track Archives. Courtesy Stanford University Libraries.

Experimental Lincoln from Ford Motor Company, Road & Track Archives. Courtesy Stanford University Libraries.

I love that the New York Times ran a story on Stanford’s acquisition of the archives of Road & Track magazine. The fact that this important acquisition is getting good publicity is fantastic, but the article missed a big chunk of the story. To my mind, the Times missed the opportunity to highlight this acquisition as an example of the enduring role of libraries and librarians in acquiring, preserving, and providing access to our cultural heritage. Frankly, the NY Times article implies that the library’s only role is to “house” the collection, a gross mischaracterization of the library’s much larger role. The implication that the libraries are simply the warehouse for this collection — an idea perpetuated by the accompanying photo of boxes being carried off a truck at our loading dock — is especially troubling to me. The Times article under-represents the role of the library and — more importantly– the vast amount of real intellectual work and expertise that our staff contributed to this acquisition and will continue to contribute to making this collection available for research.

Henry Lowood, our awesome curator for the history of science and technology, did an enormous amount of work in assessing and evaluating the collection, and in negotiating the terms of the acquisition. Plenty of other folks in our Special Collections unit, our Preservation department, and two senior library administrators likewise played a huge role in bringing this acquisition into our collections.

In this as-yet-unpublished letter to the editor at the New York Times, my boss does a wonderful job of pointing out the importance of telling “the rest of the story”:

To the editor,
While I applaud your publication of Rob Sass’ article regarding the Road & Track archive coming to Stanford University, I wish to point out the role of  the Stanford Libraries throughout the acquisition. While our partner, the Revs Program at Stanford, was certainly the catalyst that made it plausible for the Road & Track archive to come to this campus, the Libraries have been, and remain, the primary agency for the transfer of this important research collection. In short, we do the heavy lifting in acquiring, describing, preserving, and providing access to the material, while scholars with the Revs Program and other scholars over time will reap the research benefit. I point this out to highlight the vital, continuing role of libraries as essential agents in the research enterprise of great universities.
Michael A. Keller
University Librarian

For more complete coverage of the Road & Track acquisition, see our own ReMix article or the REVs program blog post.

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