By Brandt Rosenbusch, Curator to the Walter P. Chrysler Museum and Historical Collection Coordinator for Chrysler Group LLC
In my role as Archivist for Chrysler Group LLC, I can appreciate in-depth research followed by thoughtful conclusions, even when the opinions differ from my own.
But I was struck by the untruths and general carelessness in the editorial titled “Chrysler Destroys Its Historical Archives; GM to Follow?” by Bob Elton, published on The Truth About Cars blog last month.
In the piece, Elton charges that Chrysler and GM “turned their back on their own heritage and destroyed a priceless piece part of our collective past.”
It’s my job to make sure that we save Chrysler’s heritage for future generations. We’re proud of the efforts we have made over the years to carefully preserve historic documents and make them available to anyone following a request. If Elton had made such a request, perhaps he wouldn’t have made such erroneous statements in his article.
However, Elton jumped on our recent decision to close the Chrysler Engineering Library, one of a series of necessary steps to cut costs, and then proceeded to report on numerous falsehoods that put Chrysler in a bad light.
Elton’s assertions that our previous owner Cerberus “eliminated (Chrysler’s) archivist position” is untrue, as is his statement that when we closed the Engineering Library, people were allowed to carry any and all material away.
As the Archivist for Chrysler for more than 20 years, I had initial and priority access to the material in the Engineering Library for my review, and I transferred all critical books and materials to our Corporate Archives. All historical documents were shipped to the Chrysler Archives, and most of the library books were sent to the appropriate corporate departments to utilize. I can assure you that the materials absorbed by Corporate Archives deal directly with the history of Chrysler, including but not limited to reference books, internal engineering reports and publications.
Following the initial review, our Corporate Records Retention staff then reviewed the remaining materials. Any and all material that was deemed relevant to preserving the historical relevance of Chrysler was sent to storage.
It was then, only after these two extremely in-depth and professional reviews, that Chrysler Group LLC employees – and not just “anyone” as Elton states – were allowed to take the remaining materials. This material consisted of duplicate reference books, periodicals, and trade journals – material that is not core to our goal of retaining Chrysler’s rich and storied history.
Elton also wonders whether Fiat knows of the existence of the Archives and if they think it is worth preserving. I can verify that, after several visits from Fiat management, they recognize the value in the materials and wholeheartedly support our ongoing efforts at preservation.
We have historical documents beginning with the 1902 introduction of the Rambler to the present day.
If anyone would like to request information, photographs or manuals from the Chrysler Archives, we can be reached at the address below.
Chrysler Historical Collection
12501 Chrysler Freeway
Detroit, MI 48288
Fax – 313-252-2928
Chrysler has played a central role in the automotive industry, and will for many years to come. We want to protect and share our heritage, and with this article, set the record straight on that.