For Release: Immediately
Department of External Affairs
Free Library of Philadelphia
1901 Vine Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103-1189
(215) 567-7710
FAX (215) 567-7850
Contact: Communications and Development
For Release: Immediately
Contact: Communications and Development

Free Library 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 9, 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 sale is being filed with Orphans' Court today, which has to approve the sale.

The Automobile Reference Collection was established at Free Library in 1948 as a deposit collection from Thomas McKean, who served as 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 and came to exceed 100,000 items, including automobile manuals, advertising literature, technical bulletins, photographs, books, journals, historic license plates, and other ephemera. Dr. Fred Simeone, 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 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 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.

“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,” commented 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 requiring that all proceeds from such sales are kept in a restricted fund dedicated to acquiring new works that strengthen existing collections and caring for and preserving all special collections. 

“As part of the Free Library’s ongoing Strategic Plan, we are concentrating our Special Collections efforts on areas of particular strength, such as our amazing holdings of the works and letters of Charles Dickens, our unparalleled collection of Philadelphia theater history, and the Fleisher Collection—the world’s largest lending collection of orchestral music scores, which is a key resource for national and international orchestras,” said Reardon.

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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 are among the most widely used educational and cultural institutions in Philadelphia and boast a worldwide impact.

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


Department of External Affairs, Free Library of Philadelphia, 1901 Vine Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103-1189
(215) 567-7710, FAX (215) 567-7850