One of the great things about the Internet is easy access to materials that earlier would have been stored away, inaccessible in some dusty archive or in the back stacks of a library. It’s always a joy when I find that another collection of original documents, historic photos, or films whose content has been digitized and placed online. I’ve even tried to do my part by putting the Andrew F. Johnson Project online. Sure, as someone who dabbles in automotive history, it’s useful to find appropriate illustrations for my work, but the attraction that online archives hold for me is more fundamental than just pragmatic. It’s the digital equivalent to finding a stash of old National Geographic or Life magazines in your grandma’s attic. I’ve spent hours immersed at collections like the Keystone Mast Collection of vintage stereo photos at the Online Archive of California, the Smithsonian’s online archive, and the online image archive at Wayne State University’s Walter Reuther Library. Now, British Pathé, the U.K. newsreel archive company, has uploaded its entire collection of more than 85,000 historic films in high resolution format to YouTube.
The archive’s films date back to 1896, with the most recent being produced in 1976, and they comprise about 3,500 hours of footage of major historical events, notable personages, fashion, travel, sports and culture as well as extensive footage from both World Wars. In addition to the finished, narrated newsreels, the archive also includes quite a bit of original footage, outtakes and rushes. Included in the archive are many films of interest to automobile enthusiasts. The archive is searchable so all you have to do is search for topics like “motor show“, “automobile“, “Jaguar“, “Lotus” or “Stirling Moss” and you’ll immediately have enough material to put off more productive work for just about as long as you wish. I’ve included a few examples after the break.
Warning: This video of the 1955 LeMans disaster includes scenes of death:
Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS