Research Resource: The Revs Institute for Automotive Research

A one-stop automotive archive and library, The Revs Institute in Naples, Florida, is a private research facility for the serious scholar.

Managing Librarian Mark Patrick uses words like “rich” and phrases like “broad in scope” to describe the treasure trove of material available to researchers at The Revs Institute.  But “dizzying” might be a more accurate term.

“With over 1.5 million archival pieces, The Miles Collier Collection is state-of-the-art, well maintained, and takes a backseat to no other library in the study of automotive history,” says Patrick, who for 23 years ran Detroit Public Library’s National Automotive History Collection before taking the helm at The Revs library and archive three years ago.

The Big Picture

Unlike other preservation archives that focus on individual and historically significant marques and automakers, the Collier research library supports the scholarly study of how the automobile has impacted every facet of human society. The Revs Institute was founded under the belief that no technological object in the 20th Century matches the significance of the automobile when it comes to the impact this invention has had on transportation, the arts, economics, and social change throughout the world.

Areas of study include: motor sports; marque and general automotive history; the automobile in society; tens of thousands of original documents, periodicals, brochures, service and parts manuals, and sales catalogs from the every major American and European automaker; and more than 500,000 photographs, including the world famous collections from Bruce Craig, George Phillips, Peter Blair-Richley, and the recently-added Karl Ludvigsen collection (including his remarkable pictorial archives from Rodolfo Mailander, John Dugdale).

No surprise, given his profession, Patrick finds the 20,000 books preserved in the Collier library as some of the most unique material the collection has to offer scholars and researchers.

“The library includes foreign language titles, biographies of every significant automotive personality and inventor, and all of the significant English volumes published on the automobile going back to John Henry Knight’s, Notes on Motor Carriages, published in 1896.”

Going Digital

As a private collection, access to The Revs Institute is by application and appointment only.  Access to the library and archive is granted only to scholars, journalists, collectors, preservationists, and general researchers with an interest supported by the collection.

Patrick says that, while only a couple hundred researchers make a personal trek to Naples annually, he personally answers roughly 12,000 emails every year from people looking for the sort of automotive information that can only be found here.

Requests run the gamut from inquires about specific books and photos to general questions about old car catalogs, sales, and technical data.  Like any librarian, Patrick is a helpful gatekeeper who makes photocopies, provides low-resolution images of photos, and generally answers any sort of question coming from those who can’t make it to the museum themselves.  And his job will soon be getting easier.

“For the past three years we have been working on a comprehensive, Google-style digitization project to make the general contents of the archive and library more accessible to the public,” he says.  “Our scheduled date of completion is early 2012.”

To find out more about specific archive information housed in The Revs Institution for Automotive Research, check out their website at http://www.revsinstitute.org.  For access to Revs electronic library catalog, click on the “Revscat” hot button on the left hand side of the page.

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