Daily Archives: November 9, 2010

PORSCHE MUSEUM holds treasure trove of history: As the company’s “memory,” the Porsche Archive

PORSCHE MUSEUM holds treasure trove of history: As the company’s “memory,” the Porsche Archive

The Porsche Museum houses a Central Department offering all the historical and contemporary knowledge about Porsche. The Historical Archive of Porsche AG moved also into the new edifice, where portions of it are visible through glass walls from the lobby.

As the company’s “memory,” the Porsche Archive collects all important information concerning business, technical, social, or cultural matters relating to Porsche AG and its subsidiary companies. The archived items include anything worth saving about the unparalleled Porsche success story, from the beginnings of Ferdinand Porsche as an automobile designer to the engineering office established in 1931 all the way to today’s Porsche AG. The present files of the Porsche Archive cover 2,000 meters of shelf space, including bookshelves, display cases, steel cabinets, and safes.

The Historical Archive with its accumulated knowledge is available not only to internal departments but also to external users, such as journalists and scientists. Many thousands of inquiries annually are handled here in a professional manner by the Porsche archivists.

Ferdinand and Ferry Porsche shared one characteristic with other automotive icons such as Enzo Ferrari and E. L. Cord: a complete concentration on building the future and little interest in the past.

However, in more recent times, automakers have come to realize the value of their history, Porsche among them.

In a quiet corner with no signs in the Porsche museum in Zuffenhausen, Germany, are a number of fireproof vaults and a huge library. This is Porsche’s DNA.

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Available to researchers and writers, hundreds of thousands of period photographs and negatives are stored, along with all company publications. It’s likely that everyone who has ever written a book on the marque has spent a lot of time here.

Ferdinand Porsche was near the end of his life when the first Porsche car was built in 1948. But he had been building and designing cars for almost 50 years, including a hybrid at the turn of the 20th century, the iconic supercharged Mercedes-Benz SSK sports cars of the 1920s, the rear-engined Auto Union Silver Arrows, the Volkswagen, and finally, along with his son, the car that bore his name.

Most of the records of Porsche’s design firm were lost in World War II, but the archives still contain Porsche family albums and photographs going back to 1900.

The main focus of the library, however, is from 1948 onward. Period photographs of every Porsche produced are cataloged, as are photographs from every competitive event the factory entered, plus many others. Most have never been published.

A huge collection of rare catalogs and posters is also stored, as is virtually every works manual. Original works drawings are kept in a separate archive in Weissach, Germany. Porsche is not convinced of the longevity of digital storage, so all original drawings are also photographed using traditional cameras. New material is always being added, including rare collections of racing posters from around the world, sometimes donated by collectors. A varied collection of memorabilia is stored.

The archive does not authenticate individual cars, although it is certainly helpful in locating original photographs of cars that have significant provenance.

Of course, it helps to be able to walk downstairs to the museum and the attached garage. On the floor, an original Formula One car alongside the 1970 Le Mans-winning 917 and some other jaw-dropping cars. A few of the rarest customer cars make it to this, the best Porsche garage of the lot.

Given the lack of interest in history that the Porsches had, it’s amazing that it all survived intact and became the authoritative source for those with a keen interest in Porsche’s past.


Facts About the Historical Archive

  • Principal contents: product history (production and racing vehicles, design studies, in-house and third-party developments), company history (information and documents about Porsche AG, subsidiaries, associated companies), and media archive (pictorial, motion picture, and sound materials)
  • More than 2.5 million images (one of the largest image archives in the automobile sector)
  • Media archive with over 1,000 hours of motion picture materials
  • Library with more than 3,000 books on automotive subjects
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