Archival Processing Methodology: Part 5 – Languages

One of the aspects of the Vinson Collection that make it such a valuable research tool is its international scope. However, this also presents one of its challenges because with that global scope comes a wide variety of languages! They include English, French, German, Italian, Afrikaans, Mandarin, Japanese, Korean, Dutch, Portuguese, Swedish, Spanish, Norwegian, Greek, Ukrainian, Russian, Arabic, and even more. The variety in these languages presents a few different issues.

The first challenge in processing these materials is to identify which language it is. This job is made much simpler through the use of Google Translate. For those of you not familiar with this tool, one can enter the text they have and either select to translate it from Language A to Language B. Or even more helpfully in our case, it can be set on Detect Language and it will attempt identify the language based on the words that you input. Where even this impressive tool can sometimes fail you is with the languages using non-Latin character sets, since one cannot easily just type in the text to translate. In this case, one can utilize the “on screen keyboard” option, which is extremely helpful for Cyrillic languages.

However, if Google Translate fails us, all is not lost. Often based on our own knowledge, we can guess a region or potential country for the language. Then using the wealth of resources available online, we can pull up images of the characters and compare each language to the item we have. We also frequently consult with coworkers around the library to see if anyone else has the knowledge to identify a different language.

If all of these efforts fail (which, on rare occasions, they do), we resort to “unidentified languages” as the description in the finding aid. Then, once the collection is open, we hope that a patron might come in and be able to identify these few mystery languages.

The second challenge, once one identifies the language (or even if it can’t be), is to figure out what type of item it is. Though it is not necessary to get a full translation, one needs to be able to understand enough of it to get a sense of what it is. Is it a catalog? Great! But is it a catalog for one model? Multiple models? Fleet vehicles? Thankfully, the pictures are extremely helpful to identifying these distinctions. Though the distinctions sometimes grow fuzzier in a subseries like General Publications, one can still usually use context clues to infer what type of item at which one is looking.

Languages of materials are noted on the finding aid at the subseries level. For example, there will be a note that the Trade Catalogs: Specific Models are in languages X, Y, and Z or General Publications are all in language X. Additionally, an attempt is made to provide quantitative description, so that a researcher can tell that the material is almost all in English with one or two things in Dutch or something like that.

Past methodology posts discussing arrangement can be found here.

Emily Cottle is Project Archivist/Cataloger for the Z. Taylor Vinson Collection at Hagley Museum and Library.

Hollywood Cars: The Love Bug

Cover of "Meet the Volkswagen" brochure. Click to view the item in its entirety in the Hagley Digital Archives.

As the most famous Volkswagen Beetle in history, The Love Bug, or Herbie as he’s more affectionately known, warmed the hearts of millions with his adorable antics and innocent personality. Painted pearl white with off-center blue and red racing stripes and the number 53, Herbie was not only a likeable character, but a racing legend.

Herbie made his debut in the 1969 flick, The Love Bug, where he helped racing driver, Jim Douglas, get back into the racing circuit. He also starred in other films such as Herbie Rides Again (1974), Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo (1977), Herbie Goes Bananas (1980), and Herbie Fully Loaded (2005). Though Herbie never said a word in his films, he acted on his intentions by taking control of his steering wheel and pedals and producing quirky car noises.

Herbie’s story began when racecar driver Jim Douglas purchased Herbie from Peter Thorndyke’s dealership. Once Douglas and his comedic partner, Tennessee, fixed up Herbie, Douglas entered and won race after race until Thorndyke made it his prerogative to buy Herbie back for his own use in racing. Meanwhile, Douglas started to fall in love with Thorndyke’s assistant Carole Bennett, and Herbie became determined to connect the two lovebirds.

After several failed attempts to buy Herbie back, Thorndyke sabotaged Herbie prior to a race, which caused Herbie and Douglas to lose. Frustrated, Douglas decided to purchase a Lamborghini and sell Herbie back to Thorndyke. A distraught Herbie then destroyed Douglas’ new Lamborghini and drove away in despair. As soon as Herbie had gone missing, Douglas realized how much he needed Herbie and ran in search of his beloved car. After a wild goose chase Douglas and Herbie are reunited and are set to win the final race in the climax of the film.

Herbie, starring in Walt Disney World's Lights, Motors, Action! stunt show. Photo by Emily Cottle.

Following in the tradition of Herbie, Hollywood created its own cast of star cars. Most recently, the release of the third film in the Transformers franchise brought back most of the favorite Transformers cars including Bumblebee, a Chevrolet Camaro (who we will feature in a future blog post). Bumblebee and Herbie, among other cars, became stars in their own right and drove into the hearts of moviegoers everywhere.

Do you have a favorite Hollywood car? Share it in the comments section below and maybe it will become a topic for a future Hollywood cars post!

Georgano, Nick, ed. The Beaulieu Encyclopedia of the Automobile (2 Volume Set) Volume 1: A-L; Volume 2: M-Z. Norwich, England: The Stationery Office, 2000.

Smith, Dave. Disney A to Z: The Official Encyclopedia. 3rd ed. New York: Disney Editions, 2006.

Walsh, Bill, and Don DaGradi. The Love Bug. DVD. Directed by Robert Stevenson. Walt Disney Productions, 1968.

Robin Valencia is the Graduate Assistant for the Z. Taylor Vinson Collection at Hagley Museum and Library.

When Cars Fly!

Though primarily an aircraft manufacturer, the Curtiss-Wright company dabbled in the creation of passenger vehicles with a hover car. Catalogs available in the digital collection feature the Model 2500 and the Bee of this hover car. The following excerpt included on both catalogs, explains how they worked:

The Curtiss-Wright Air Car, employing the Ground Effect Principle, is supported on an air cushion and is designed for operation in close proximity to the surface.

In operation, air is drawn in through an engine-driven fan system, and directed to the base of the machine. When the pressure of the air underneath the machine reaches a value which is approximately equal to the machine weight divided by its plan area, the vehicle lifts off the surface. Equilibrium at a given height is determined when the exit air flow equals the inlet air flow.

The Curtiss-Wright ground effect vehicle utilizes the deflector plate (or annular slot system). The deflector plate machine requires a minimum air flow to achieve a given performance. By expelling the air through the slot, additional height of machine from the surface is achieved by utilizing the downward directed exit momentum. Also, the lower air flows associated with deflector plate vehicle appreciably reduce the inlet momentum drag penalty and permit the deflector plate machine to achieve higher speeds.

The Curtiss-Wright Bee hover car.

Several videos of the cars in action can be found on YouTube by searching for Curtiss-Wright and Curtis-Wright Air Car (both spellings are used, though the catalogs featured here all use the spelling of Curtiss with two S’s).

The Curtiss-Wright Air-Cars did not hold the monopoly on flying vehicles of the 1960s. Marketed as “the car with the built-in freeway,” the Aerocar was a car that took a slightly different approach to flying. Instead of trying to create a regular old car that flew (or hovered), they embraced the idea of adding wings to a car for a more traditional plane look. When not in use, the wings could be folded into a trailer that was towed behind the car. The change-over was said to be as simple as changing a tire and was easily completed by just one person. This combo plane and car could be bought for just $7,500!

Order form for Aerocar model.

Just a few of the features boasted in the literature include average travel speed better than 90 MPH, the ability for immediate mobility to your destination by road or by air, and perhaps most appealingly, the prospect of no more traffic. One of the catalogs even included an order form to purchase a scale model of the Aerocar (shown here) that converted from plane to car and back again just like the real thing!

These companies are just two of several examples of flying cars present in the collection. Don’t worry if you’re more interested in taking to the seas than the skies in your car; a future blog post will highlight combination boat/car vehicles!

Update: Check out this April 2nd article about the flying cars coming to the 2012 New York Auto Show!

Emily Cottle is the Project Archivist/Cataloger for the Z. Taylor Vinson Collection at Hagley Museum and Library.

The Yugo: The Worst Car in America?

The Yugo was known to many as the worst car in America. The Yugo was imported from Yugoslavia and built by a company named Zastava. It attempted to win the hearts of Americans by touting itself as safe, dependable, and affordable. The buzz that surrounded the Yugo created a whirlwind of Yugomania before the car even arrived in America in 1985. Commercials arrived demonstrating its style, and that anyone could drive it because it was so affordable at $3,990. They were “The toughest, most dependable cars a little money can buy.”

According to their advertisements, with the Yugo’s affordability anyone could “buy a little freedom.” Yugo commercials, which can still be seen on YouTube, demonstrate how the Yugo attempted to win over the American public. Everyone from the new driver to the commuter could afford to own this dependable, small car. In their 1987 commercial, the Yugo competed alongside other well-known brands such as Honda, Nissan, and Jeep in the One Lap of America Rally, attempting to prove their quality among other leading small cars.

However, there were reasons why the Yugo was priced so low. As Yugos ventured onto America’s roads, they didn’t go very far… literally. They were known for stripped down interiors and poor mechanical quality. With so much hype before their release, the expectations for the car from Eastern Europe rose, only to fall extremely short.

Elaborating on the Yugo’s tale of woe, Jason Vuic, author of The Yugo: The Rise and Fall of the Worst Car in History, provided an alternative spin on the little car. Though the title suggests that the author agrees with popular opinion, he actually argues that the Yugo is not the worst car in the world. In order for it to be sold in America, it had to pass several emissions and mechanical tests before it was even considered a potential product for the American market. Many import cars do not pass this test, and are therefore not sold in America. His logic is that since the Yugo passed the quality tests, it is obviously not the world’s worst car.

Its reputation as the car Americans love to hate continues to this day. Time includes the following to accentuate this point at the start of a 2010 article that includes an interview with Jason Vuic about the Yugo:

What do you call a Yugo with a flat tire? Totaled. What’s included in every Yugo owner’s manual? A bus schedule. What do you call a Yugo that breaks down after 100 miles? An overachiever.

Though the debate rages on as to whether or not the Yugo is the worst car in American history, it is not the only contender for this notorious title. Cars such as the Pinto, Edsel, and Corvair among others are considered to be the worst of the worst. These cars will forever live in infamy and in junk yards across America.

Note: Being from the 1980s, Yugo materials in the collection are still protected by copyright and therefore cannot be digitized. These items will be available to view in person once the collection is open at the completion of processing.

Georgano, Nick, ed. The Beaulieu Encyclopedia of The Automobile (2 Volume Set) Volume 1: A-L; Volume 2: M-Z. Norwich, England: The Stationery Office, 2000.
Webley, Kayla. “The Yugo: Worst Car Ever?” Time, March 16, 2010.,8599,1972071,00.html (accessed February 9, 2012).

Robin Valencia is the Graduate Assistant for the Z. Taylor Vinson Collection at Hagley Museum and Library.

Hagley Video Minute Featuring the Vinson Collection

We pause from our regularly scheduled programming this week to bring you something a little bit different. Hagley Museum and Library has a YouTube channel featuring short videos containing interviews with staff and tours around the property. The latest Hagley Minute features two of the treasures of the Vinson Collection: the 1955 Ford Thunderbird catalog (which has already been the subject of a blog post) and a Lincoln V-12 showroom book (which will be the topic of a future post). The video is viewable below or on YouTube.

Stay tuned for future installments of the Hagley Minute featuring the Vinson Collection!

Emily Cottle is the Project Archivist/Cataloger for the Z. Taylor Vinson Collection at Hagley Museum and Library.