Today, on its 119th anniversary, Ford Motor Company is making a century of its archival material available to the public through a new online database called the Ford Heritage Vault.
Ford created the Heritage Vault (https://fordheritagevault.com) for fans, journalists and car enthusiasts, making it easy to discover the company’s rich heritage from anywhere in the world. The artifacts are downloadable for personal use, free of charge, for the first time as part of the American auto industry’s most comprehensive online database.
The Ford Heritage Vault contains more than 5,000 curated photographs and product brochures from Ford and Lincoln vehicles, spanning from the company’s founding in 1903 to its centennial in 2003. Ford will grow the Heritage Vault over time, drawing from its archives.
“We’re opening up in a way we’ve never done before,” said Ted Ryan, Ford archive and heritage brand manager. “Our archives were established 70 years ago, and for the first time, we’re opening the vault for the public to see. This is just a first step for all that will come in the future.”
The materials available in the online collection today were carefully curated over the past two years by Ford’s archives team. Many of the high-resolution images showcase the design and functionality of Ford and Lincoln vehicles. Others are memorable images that bring Ford’s heritage to life for fans and car enthusiasts, while also educating newcomers to the Blue Oval.
One set of brochures serves as a time capsule for the 1970s and ’80s. The series was created to market specific vehicle design packages to younger consumers and shows beach outings, racing and skydiving, accentuated with vivid oranges, browns and yellows.
“Complementing all of the vehicle photos available in the Ford Heritage Vault, brochures like these add so much more information and impact for people who want to learn about our
products, heritage and accessories,” said Ciera Casteel, processing archivist, who prepared materials for the Heritage Vault.
Taking a trip down memory lane
Ford worked with graduate students from Wayne State University’s library and information science program in Detroit, as well as Ford employees and retirees, to pilot the Heritage Vault in advance of its launch.
The collection appealed to both casual browsers and dedicated automotive enthusiasts, who reported a better appreciation for Ford and its heritage after using the site. A Ford employee even remarked that seeing the old photos brought tears to his eyes.
Ford Bronco and Ford F-Series were common search items among testers. Meteor, Fairlane, Galaxie, Model A and Edsel were also popular, with one user finding the Tempo models their mother and grandmother owned in the 1980s and ’90s.
Opening Ford’s heritage to all
Ford Heritage Vault has been created with accessibility features that translate photos, charts and graphs and other pre-digital assets for compatibility with assistive technology now used by blind and visually impaired site visitors, such as screen readers, to interpret websites. Heritage Vault users can request remediated versions of additional brochures as needed.
“These assets were born analog, and we have worked hard to bring them to the digital world,” said Casteel, who led the effort to make the assets accessible. “But digitizing isn’t enough. It was important to us that the Heritage Vault is accessible for everyone to enjoy.”
Ford Motor Company Archives
- Established in 1951, at Fair Lane Estate, as part of the Company’s 50th anniversary activities, moved to the Rotunda in 1957, where it was housed until the Rotunda was destroyed by fire in November of 1962
- In 1964, donated a large portion of the collection to what is now the Benson Ford Research Center, located at The Henry Ford
- Moved to Schaefer Court III, in 1998, in preparation for the Company’s centennial celebration, moved to our current home in the Ford Motor Company Engineering Laboratory in late 2015
- Our purpose-built space includes 25,000 square feet of climate-controlled storage with 3 miles of movable shelving for paper-based materials, as well as 3 separate walk-in coolers for film-based media
- Currently hold 16,000 cubic feet of paper-based records, roughly 5,000 electronic records, nearly 51,000 moving image assets, about 2 million negatives, a few thousand 3-D artifacts, and hundreds of works of art
- Preserve collections from many of Ford’s global operations, including Ford of Europe, Ford of Canada, Ford UK, Ford of Denmark, and the Ghia Design Studio in Italy
- Staff led by Ted Ryan, Heritage Brand Manager, and includes 6 professional archivists
- Team responds to an annual average of 1,100 requests from internal and external customers, including executives, book authors, agency partners, and enthusiasts
- Curate thematic exhibits in our flexible gallery space, and other Dearborn locations, for both internal employee groups and members of the media