16 May 2016

Preservation: Visiting Jaguar's Archives

Automotive preservation is at the core of Hagerty’s various information and education programs, and so it is always heartening to see carmakers share this philosophy.  On a visit to the Jaguar Land Rover North America headquarters in Mahwah, N.J., I saw firsthand how Jaguar is preserving its history in North America.

It was a typical day for the Jaguar North American Archives at the company’s U.S. headquarters in Mahwah, N.J. For a particular project, the marketing department had requested verification for the identity of the E-Type shown at the New York Auto Show in 1961. Mike Cook, who manages the archives, pulled a tape cartridge from a cabinet and loaded it into a microfilm reader. If you’re under 35, you may have never seen one of these machines, which were once common in public libraries and in file departments of large companies before computers were used for data storage and management.

Cook worked for the company’s American arm from 1968 (when it was part of the British Leyland amalgamation) until retiring as product publicity manager in 1991. He’s been involved with the Jaguar Archives since then, taking over management in 2003. Fred Hammond, whose own long career in automotive public relations began at British Leyland and included a stint with Volvo, is his Cook’s assistant. Gloria Pedati provides administrative support. That’s the entire Jaguar Archives team.

Jaguar Preservation Treasure
Hammond suggested that the information on the E-Type they were searching for was likely available through the computerized records. The Jaguar Daimler Heritage Trust in England had digitized these from the original factory information.

Cook, however, countered that the microfilm – which was photographed from the original Jaguar factory ledger pages – could provide additional context, showing which cars were built before and after the one they were searching for. Also, for someone who enjoys delving into such history, the sight of the Jaguar production ledgers is a treat. Cook quickly found the blue E-Type’s record and confirmed its serial number and identity. This was the model that introduced this landmark sports car to the American public more than 50 years prior.

The Jaguar Archives in the U.S. headquarters is essentially a large conference room filled with filing cabinets that contain brochures, advertisements, press kits, specification sheets and many more kinds of documents. Computers provide access to the growing collection of digitized photographs taken from the expansive archives.

It is here that the Archives team preserves Jaguar’s history in North America and also provides research services to accredited journalists and publications.

In another room, film canisters and various size tape cassettes contain decades of Jaguar technical and sales training films, TV commercials and more. These, too, are being digitized for safer storage and easy computer access. Viewing those currently in the queue for digitization requires an assortment of equipment that many young people have possibly never seen or used, including Beta and MTR machines.

An Employee Who Really Cared
Cook credits a Jaguar consultant, Karen Miller, with being the first U.S. archivist for the company when it was headquartered in Leonia, N.J. When word came of a planned move to a new, larger building in Mahwah to the north, Miller asked what they would do with all the materials they had accumulated. The duo then spent two years gathering all they could.

“We went around collecting photography, books, artifacts, literature – whatever was stored in old files, whatever people had squirreled away,” says Cook. “We came out of Leonia with about 42 file cabinets and 16 pallets of boxes, artwork, posters – you name it.”

After the headquarters relocated, the job of organizing began with separating duplicated materials, including brochures. They began selling the excess through the Jaguar Club. The collection includes original brochures and ads from SS cars’ start in the 1930s. The goal was to keep three copies of everything – one permanent, one to lend, and one as a backup.

Invaluable Historical Files
A few years ago, John Dugdale, who authored “Jaguar in America,” sold his library to the Jaguar Archives. Dugdale, who began his career as a journalist for Britain’s Autocar magazine in the early 1930s, became executive vice-president of the British Automobile Manufacturers Association (BAMA) in New York and then joined Jaguar as vice-president of advertising and PR in the 1960s. His BAMA files include such historical tidbits as letters from British carmakers applying for licenses to market cars in the U.S. following World War II.

If you own a Jaguar, you may have already purchased its Heritage Certificate, a kind of birth certificate validating its production date and serial number. Several hundred Jag owners in North America do the same every year, and the Jaguar Archives fulfills the request. Other services for Jaguar owners include answering individual inquiries on technical and other matters and even providing numbers for lost keys.

The Jaguar Archives also supports some Jaguar Club activities

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