Race Back in Time: Indianapolis Motor Speedway Collection Adds Oral Histories

Chet MillerAlmost four years ago the Center for Digital Scholarship at IUPUI University Library and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway formed a partnership. The goal of this partnership was simple: to digitize large portions of the expansive photographic racing history contained within IMS’ negative collection, and by doing so, provide access to the masses. It took a lot of work and was not always easy. Many of the negatives had decayed over time and the sheer amount of negatives was often overwhelming. But in the end, the partnership was successful, and thousands of previously unavailable images depicting the vast racing history of the IMS can now be viewed by not only employees of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but race fans and scholars all over the world.

In the spring of 2013 IUPUI and the IMS decided to expand upon their earlier goal by including not only photographic images, but audio recordings as well. Through the process of interviewing Donald Davidson, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s Track Historian, and combing over recordings of the races and post-race commentary, one hundred audio recordings summarizing each year’s race will be created. Now, not only will the public have access to photographs of racing history, but they will get to hear about it as well. And though this portion of the collaboration is still in the early stages, the initial results are quite impressive. Currently seventeen audio recordings, in which Mr. Davidson provides his own oral history of that year’s race, can be found in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Collection. These recordings provide rare insight given by a man who is quite arguably one of the biggest experts on IMS history in the world.

Over time these audio recordings will be combined with a selection of highlights from each year’s race, providing users with a unique audio and visual experience. The hope of both the Center for Digital Scholarship at IUPUI University Library and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is that, through this audio and visual combination, users will be able to easily imagine themselves at the track on race day for any given year. I invite you to check back with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Collection frequently as it grows. I think you will be quite pleased with what you find! -- Lucy Williams

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Updated Mar 27, 2016 by Scholarly Communication Librarian