Free Library

Free Library of Philadelphia Finds Home for Automobile Reference Collection

Collection of car manuals and ephemera to become publicly accessible at Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum and Antique Automobile Club of America.

PHILADELPHIA, December 9th, 2019—The Free Library of Philadelphia has received a letter of non-objection from the Office of the Pennsylvania Attorney General for the sale of the Automobile Reference Collection to two car-focused organizations:  the Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum in Philadelphia and the Hershey, Pa.-based Antique Automobile Club of America. These two organizations will jointly own the collection and will catalog, digitize, and make it fully accessible to the public for free.

The Automobile Reference Collection was established at Free Library in 1948. It originally served as a deposit collection from Thomas McKean, its first curator. He bequeathed the collection to the Library in 1949. The core collection was supplemented in the latter half of the 20th century through acquisitions and numerous donations from individuals and corporations. It came to exceed 100,000 items, including automobile manuals, advertising literature, technical bulletins, photographs, books, journals, historic license plates, and other ephemera.

Historic Connections

Dr. Fred Simeone, the founder of the Simeone Foundation Museum, interned with the Free Library as a young man and helped to build the ARC by requesting donations. The Antique Automobile Club of America is this country’s largest and oldest continuously active historical automobile organization whose thousands of members have benefited from their extensive library and will continue to do so even more with this acquisition. These meaningful, historic connections between all three institutions and this collection make the move a true homecoming.

Substantive new materials have not been added to the collection in more than 20 years and it has not had a dedicated curator for several years. As such, the Library decided the collection could have a greater public benefit at a new home. The Simeone Foundation Museum and the Antique Automobile Club—founded by McKean in 1935—represent the ideal choice to care for and grow the collection. These two institutions will jointly keep the collection together, catalog it, digitize large portions of it, and make it available to the public for free.

New Beginnings

“We are delighted that the collection will continue to have a home in Philadelphia at the Simeone Foundation Museum and that, with the addition of the capabilities of the Antique Automobile Club of America, the collection can be cataloged, digitized, and shared with the world. Both organizations have active library collections open free to all and look forward to building these resources for the public to enjoy. Most thoughtfully, they will honor the donor and one of the Antique Automobile Club’s founders by naming this new resource the Thomas McKean Collection.”

Free Library President and Director Siobhan A. Reardon

The sale and new placement of the Automobile Reference Collection by the Free Library is part of widespread contemporary practice among collecting organizations to focus and optimize their efforts by deaccessioning holdings that depart from their core missions. Like other institutions, the Free Library follows a deaccessioning policy. This policy requires that all proceeds from such sales are kept in a restricted fund. Proceeds are dedicated to acquiring new works that strengthen existing collections and caring for and preserving all special collections. 

# # #

About the Free Library

The Free Library of Philadelphia system, with 54 locations and The Rosenbach, advances literacy, guides learning, and inspires curiosity with millions of digital and physical materials; 31,000 yearly programs and workshops; free public computers and extensive Wi-Fi, including neighborhood Hot Spots; and rich special collections, including those at the Parkway Central Library and at The Rosenbach. With more than 5 million in-person visits and 5 million more online annually, the Free Library and The Rosenbach rank among the most widely used educational and cultural institutions in Philadelphia and boast a worldwide impact.

About the Simeone Museum

The nonprofit Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum collection curation began in the 1950s. It contains original material produced by automotive factories while the collector was an intern at McKean collection of the Free Library of Philadelphia. As it grew, more data was added through a variety of available private and commercial sources. The library has been additionally enhanced by the donation of several large lifetime collections of devoted automotive historians. It now consists of factory-produced sales literature, magazines from the turn-of-the-century, historic racing material, photographs, and special personal collections of automotive luminaries. Its goal is to preserve and make available to automotive historians its unique resources.  

About the Antique Automobile Club of America

The AACA, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation, has served as the country’s premier resource for the collectible vehicle community since its formation in 1935. Through its national office, publications, online forums, Library and membership, the Club has assisted countless individuals, historians, and collectors, along with other libraries and museums, in the quest to preserve and enjoy the antique automobile experience

Hours and Info

6825 Norwitch Drive
Philadelphia, PA 19153
Tuesday – Friday 10AM through 6PM
Saturday – Sunday 10AM through 4PM
Closed Mondays and Major Holidays

About the Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum

Located in Philadelphia, PA, the Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum is one of the world’s greatest collections of racing sports cars. Through our theme, “The Spirit of Competition”, we celebrate the history and evolution of these magnificent machines.

Assembled over 50 years by Dr. Frederick Simeone, the Museum contains over 75 historically significant cars including Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, Bugatti, Mercedes, Jaguar, Bentley, Porsche, Aston Martin, Corvette, Ford, and more.

Guest Reviews