Ford Motor Co. in Dearborn is making a century of its archives 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. Searchable artifacts are downloadable for personal use, free of charge, for the first time as part of the US automotive industry’s most comprehensive online database.
The Ford Heritage Vault contains more than 5,000 product photographs and brochures of Ford and Lincoln vehicles, from the company’s founding in 1903 to its centenary in 2003. Ford will develop the Heritage Vault over time, drawing on its archives.
“We’re opening up like never before,” said Ted Ryan, Ford’s heritage brand and archives manager. “Our archives were created 70 years ago and, for the first time, we are opening the vault to the public. This is only a first step for everything that will come in the future.
The documents available in the online collection today have been curated for the past two years by the Ford Archives team. Many 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 educating newcomers to the Blue Oval.
A set of brochures serves as a time capsule to the 1970s and 1980s. The series was created to market specific vehicle design sets to young consumers and shows beach trips, races and skydiving, accented by bright oranges, browns and yellows.
“In addition to all the vehicle photos available in the Ford Heritage Vault, brochures like these add much more information and impact for people who want to learn more about our products, heritage and accessories” , says Ciera Casteel, processing archivist who prepared documents. for the Heritage Vault.
Ford worked with graduate students from the library and information science program at Wayne State University in Detroit, as well as Ford employees and retirees, to pilot the Heritage Vault before its launch.
The collection appealed to both casual browsers and car enthusiasts, who reported a greater appreciation of Ford and its heritage after using the site. A Ford employee even commented 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 his mother and grandmother owned in the 1980s and 1990s.
Ford Heritage Vault was 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 visitors, such as screen readers, to interpret websites. Heritage Vault users can request edited versions of additional brochures if needed.
“These assets were born analog, and we’ve worked hard to bring them into the digital world,” says Casteel, who led efforts to make the assets accessible. “But digitization is not enough. It was important to us that the Heritage Vault be accessible to everyone.