Peter Galilee

Old is the new new, ob­serves Pete – so there’s maybe some­thing there for Land Rover. And he’s frus­trated by valu­able ar­chive ma­te­rial that’s so near yet so far

LRO (UK) - - Contents - PETER GALILEE

Frus­trated over ‘lost’ ma­te­rial in ar­chives

In the last is­sue, I wrote of fol­low­ing a weird-look­ing Toy­ota WILL, and later find­ing that small num­bers had been im­ported from Ja­pan and are a sort of be­low-the-radar cult thing here in UK. That seemed pretty odd. But just a cou­ple of weeks later a friend told me there had been a meeting some­where in the York­shire Dales for en­thu­si­asts of the Nis­san Fi­garo – that’s the Mi­cra-based retro-styled thing that looks fairly con­vinc­ingly like some­thing from the ’50s. Ap­par­ently lots of cars and own­ers were mak­ing a week­end of it, with coun­try danc­ing and a mor­ris-danc­ing dis­play...

I quite like the Fi­garo. With time­warp styling and non-metal­lic pas­tel paint­work, it was de­signed specif­i­cally to give two fin­gers to hard-edged and ag­gres­sively techy mod­ern cars. Per­haps it’s not so sur­pris­ing such a thing ap­peals to me – some­body who likes old Se­ries Land Rovers. In a sim­i­lar way, I like the mod­ern (but retro-look­ing) Fiat 500 – a flavour of the ‘50s with charming non-metal­lic paint­work, and a cheeky dis­re­gard for mod­ern tech. Who cares what bhp? It’s just fun to be around. And the Fiat 500 isn’t a joke, either – it’s been a huge com­mer­cial suc­cess.

All of which makes me won­der... Nowa­days, retro is un­de­ni­ably cool. Even Land Rover it­self is in on the act, with its ‘Re­born’ Se­ries ve­hi­cle and Range Rover Clas­sic restora­tions. But a lot of peo­ple don’t re­ally want a proper clas­sic – let’s face it, older tech­nol­ogy isn’t any­where near as re­li­able as mod­ern. Could there be a mar­ket for a sort of retro-styled two-door Range Rover? Min­i­mal whis­tles and bells, ma­jor­ing on styling cues? I do won­der.

His­tory go­ing back­wards

I don’t sup­pose LRO read­ers give much thought to what it takes to get some of our his­tor­i­cal ar­ti­cles into print. Some­times we’re lucky – story and pho­tos are eas­ily avail­able. But quite of­ten, as we track down some­thing ob­scure, we’re stuck for in­for­ma­tion or il­lus­tra­tive ma­te­rial. Then it’s a case of try­ing to find what we need from ar­chive sources.

Be­lieve me, that can – and some­times does – lit­er­ally take years. Even worse, th­ese ef­forts aren’t al­ways suc­cess­ful. I have sev­eral in­ter­est­ing sto­ries on my com­puter that I can’t bring to fruition be­cause I can’t get the ar­chive ma­te­rial I need – even though I know that ma­te­rial ex­ists.

Back in the day, if you wanted a copy of an ex­ist­ing pho­to­graph you’d have to bor­row the photo or neg­a­tive and then find a pro­fes­sional pho­tog­ra­pher to re­pro­duce it – no­body had a home scan­ner then.

A friend once de­scribed to me how – in the Ley­land years, be­fore Gay­don’s Her­itage Mu­seum – he’d bor­rowed some 1948 neg­a­tives of pre-pro­duc­tion Land Rovers from one of the com­pany’s premises. The old glass-plate neg­a­tives were in some­thing like a card­board shoe­box, kept in a fil­ing cab­i­net in a rick­ety sin­gle-storey build­ing.

He was al­lowed to take the lot away, with­out even a signature: ‘Just let us have them back when you’ve got copies,’ he was asked. He took them out, in the rain, across a pud­dle-strewn dirt path – just think what might have hap­pened if they’d been dropped! But at least he could get copies.

Nowa­days, it should be very much eas­ier – emails, im­age scan­ners and all the rest. And ac­tu­ally find­ing ma­te­rial is sim­pli­fied: for in­stance, A to A (Ac­cess to Ar­chives) is a web­site that will plug you in to an in­dex sys­tem for a big chunk of what’s avail­able. But that doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily mean you can get it. Let’s say that years back some well-mean­ing ci­ti­zen went along to their lo­cal li­brary or ar­chive and de­posited Land Rover pho­tos, pa­per­work, what­ever... they’d be thanked, and that would be the end of that. If any mem­ber of the pub­lic wanted a copy, or to print a photo from the ar­chive ma­te­rial in a mag­a­zine, the ar­chive hold­ers would al­low it.

Then, rules tight­ened: to get a copy you needed per­mis­sion from the orig­i­nal de­pos­i­tor. Prob­lem: some­times the de­pos­i­tor’s de­tails weren’t recorded, or their present where­abouts can’t be traced, or they’ve died – what­ever. In which case, the ar­chive of­ten won’t re­lease the ma­te­rial (it’s pos­si­ble to have ar­chive ma­te­rial de­clared ‘or­phaned’, but the onus is on the per­son re­quest­ing ma­te­rial to pro­vide proof of the orig­i­nal de­pos­i­tor’s death, no close rel­a­tives, etc – of­ten very dif­fi­cult). If there’s no writ­ten con­sent from the orig­i­nal de­pos­i­tor, stat­ing that ma­te­rial may be re­leased, ar­chive hold­ers usu­ally refuse.

For those of us who like his­tory, this is getting to be a big prob­lem. There’s a size­able chunk of the past that you’d prob­a­bly be in­ter­ested to see – old Land Rover pho­tos, for ex­am­ple – but which can’t be re­pro­duced.

In the long term, I don’t know what’s to be done. But if you ever de­posited any ma­te­rial with an ar­chive – please go back and make sure they have your writ­ten con­sent on file, agree­ing to its re­lease. Oth­er­wise, next time you move house, or if you get run over by a bus (try not to, though), that ma­te­rial will never be seen in pub­lic again.

‘Could there be a mar­ket for a sort of retro-styled twodoor Range Rover with min­i­mal bells and whis­tles?’

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