One million historic Petersen museum images to be digitised

The Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles is launching photo archive digitization project - making one million images available online

The Petersen Automotive Museum is to digitize one million images from the Petersen Publishing Archive, with a financial injection from the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA).

The grant will see the Petersen Publishing photo archive digitization project culminate in a public database, preserving Petersen Publishing’s contributions to automotive history and culture.

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Following an initial proclamation during the 2017 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance, the project's launch was announced last week at the SEMA show in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Consisting of more than 10 million images, the Petersen Publishing Archive boasts a collection of physical photographic negatives and transparencies that were originally shot between the 1940s and 1980s. SIM (Source Interlink Media) had previously conducted an initial digitization project to tackle some 500,000 images, but things have now stepped up a notch.

SEMA's interest in the Petersen archive and subsequent generosity has allowed the museum to hire three full-time staff members in a bid to accelerate the process.

Led by Petersen Archivist Laura Fisher, the labor-intensive project will set a new standard by which other automotive institutions develop and share their own archives. Ultimately, the Petersen facilitated the fulfilment of founder Robert E. Petersen’s wish to share his legacy with the world in a way that is both meaningful and accessible.

“Our namesake Robert E. Petersen single-handedly built the world’s largest special-interest publishing empire,” said executive director of the Petersen Automotive Museum Terry L. Karges.

“It is up to us as the gatekeepers of his empire to preserve the archive of Petersen Publishing materials by sharing it with the public digitally. This project has helped propel the Petersen to the forefront of automotive thought for future generations to come.”

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