The Daimler Archives – History Preserved

Archive and Museum Under a Single Roof

The year 1957 saw the archive and museum being combined, bringing together the product and document collections, and generating numerous synergies in the process. This structure has been retained to the present day. The merger was reflected particularly in the inauguration of the Mercedes-Benz Museum on the plant site, with the new building being completed in 1960 and inaugurated in 1961: the archive was housed in the same building. When the new Mercedes-Benz Museum was opened off the plant site at Mercedes-Benz World in 2006, the archive moved into the building directly opposite the plant gates located on the Cannstatt side.

The archive’s organisational structure also changed over the years. The current system was set up in 1973: at the time, the decision was taken to “extend the document base to the non-technical area,” to split up the hitherto “mainly technically oriented” historical archive into the technical archive and corporate archive. The archives still retain the same structure even today: apart from the corporate archive and the product archive, there is the media archive, archive library and the vehicle collection.

Economic and Social History

The corporate archive preserves documents and artifacts relating to individuals and the company’s history. These include sources on the company founders, the complete company history and the development of the plants, as well as the Board members with reports on Board of Management and Supervisory Board meetings. Documents detailing sales of in-house products and on investments form part of the corporate archive along with press kits and a art collection including rare posters, original graphics and designs for advertising motifs as well as the advertising collection including advertisements dating back to 1885. The racing archive documents the motorsport involvement of Daimler and the predecessor companies from the first race in 1894, through the Silver Arrows era in the 1930s and 1950s to the present-day competitors. And the archived material also includes documents on the social history as well as artifacts ranging from coins, medals and trophies through to promotional items.

End-to-end multimedia: in addition to written documentation and photographs, the archive also collected other media from the outset. The photo shows the film archive
End-to-end multimedia: in addition to written documentation and photographs, the archive also collected other media from the outset. The photo shows the film archive
Daimler racing trophy collection
Testimony to races and records: showcase with various racing trophies and prizes
Microcopies of the negatives of historical material provide rapid access to important information without damaging the sensitive originals
Microcopies of the negatives of historical material provide rapid access to important information without damaging the sensitive originals

Technical Expertise in its Historical Context

The product archive documents the history of passenger cars and commercial vehicles since the invention of the automobile by Carl Benz and Gottlieb Daimler. The archived materials include brochures, price lists, owner’s manuals, workshop and parts literature along with technical reports and design drawings. The original vehicle records, order books and engine books, which document the as-delivered condition of virtually all passenger cars ever built by the Daimler, Mercedes and Mercedes-Benz brands provide a treasure trove of information. Added to which are vehicle data cards for over 10 million passenger cars from the period 1945 to 1985.

These documents also constitute important sources for Mercedes-Benz Classic that allow the manufacturer to produce expert reports: based on this historical information and a technical diagnosis, the experts from Mercedes-Benz Classic can verify and document the originality of valuable Mercedes-Benz vehicles.

Open to New Media

The media archive includes some three million photographs from the early years of automotive construction to the present day. This includes almost 300,000 historical black-and-white negatives, almost a third of which are large-format glass negatives. The media archive also features some 4000 films along with the audio collection comprising original interviews with contemporary witnesses and other contributions to oral history.

The media are accessible in an extensive database, which facilitates rapid search and distribution. The corporate archive also embraced the digital future early on: the data in the archives has been processed electronically since the early 1990s. In 2000, the [email protected] database (Multimedia, Archive and Research System) also went live on the internet. [email protected] is not an island solution limited to the archives but was always designed from the outset as a cross-departmental solution that could be deployed throughout the Group to provide all types of media and documents.

Digital source: the multimedia information system M@RS provides text and photographs on the product and corporate history via a web browser
Digital source: the multimedia information system [email protected] provides text and photographs on the product and corporate history via a web browser

Meanwhile [email protected] is being used in the Group by more than 20 other clients, with data constantly being added; for the archives this integrated solution has the major advantage of providing up-to-date data such as product and marketing information early on to ensure long-term availability.

This willingness to embrace new media is nothing new: back in April 1938, Max Rauck noted: “We have to set up a sound archive. [… W[e] already have various wax discs, f[or] e[xample] “Dr Nibel talks about the racing car” etc. You could also find stories from old Daimler and Benz veterans on wax discs.” In the same year, Rauck also suggested they should also archive historical film material. As such, the archive was consistently geared to a variety of media from the moment it was founded.

Literature on Vehicle Technology and the Automotive Industry

The archive library is a large reference library that specialises in automotive technology and the automotive industry. In addition to the numerous works on the Mercedes-Benz brand as well as on Daimler AG and its predecessor companies, there are also extensive archives on general automotive and technology history. The almost complete edition of the “Allgemeine Automobil-Zeitung”, a car magazine first published in 1900, is a remarkable rarity on the international library scene. The library also holds other publications from the early days of the automobile. In total, the library contains some 10,000 books, and 220 magazines, of which 90 are current titles. The library’s collections also include numerous books published by the Archive itself. This publication work on brand-specific topics as well as on basic issues relating to automobile history boasts a long tradition in the archive.

Mercedes-Benz promotional poster archive
Build something good and talk about it: the constant underlying aim of the promotional posters that have been collected in the archive
Allgemeine Automobil-Zeitung
The corporate archive includes the "Allgemeine Automobil-Zeitung" almost in its entirety from 1900 to 1943. The 1900 and 1901 editions of this early car magazine shown here do not exist in any other library in Germany.
Interface between company and public: the archive provides experts with visitor workstations to conduct their research
Interface between company and public: the archive provides experts with visitor workstations to conduct their research

History on Wheels

The Mercedes-Benz Classic vehicle collection forms the basis for all automotive activities linked to the unique tradition of Mercedes-Benz.

A company-owned vehicle collection has been documented in the archives since 1921. The collection consists of more than 900 vehicles, some 160 of which are on display as exhibits in the Mercedes-Benz Museum. Other vehicles are on show at exhibitions and motor shows, or used at new vehicle presentations, at classic car events and rallies. A binding collection concept governs the way in which the vehicle collection is expanded and managed. In this way, the brand’s groundbreaking products are collected according to set criteria and preserved for posterity – according to precisely the same discerning requirements that the historical archive has fulfilled since 1936.

[Source: Daimler AG]