Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Larz Anderson Museum - A trip back in time

If you're into old cars, I mean really old cars... like some-of-the-first-cars-ever-made old... then you have to make a trip trip to Brookline, Massachusetts and visit the Larz Anderson Auto Museum.  I was there on my recent trip to the north eastern USA and I have to say, it was a pretty amazing place to go see.
Larz Anderson was a well heeled American diplomat and all-around car nut.  Amazingly, his wife, Isabel, also shared his enthusiasm for automobiles.  The couple amassed a huge collection of about 30 or so vehicles, about half of which are now on display as the Larz Anderson Collection in Brookline.

The Carriage House
Housed in the basement of a stately old carriage house, the nucleus of the museum's collection consists of the numerous ancient cars that Larz enjoyed thrashing around (as evidenced in a cartoon drawn by the man himself which depicts him pushing his Winton Buckeye to go as fast as possible).  The only thing more interesting than the age of these cars is the sheer variety in types of vehicles in the collection.

When you visit you will see everything from electric cars (including a 1908 Bailey Electric that was favourite of Mrs. Anderson) to a car equipped with a convertible bed, a wash basin and a toilet (a custom built 1906 Charron-Girodot et Voight).  Among the collection are some obscure marques (Winton, Panhard and Electromobile) and some familiar ones (Renault, Fiat and Lincoln), so chances are you will see something you like.  At the very least, you will come away with more car history knowledge than you came in with.  
The Duesenberg

The museum also has exhibits that change around every so often.  Right now the exhibit is entitle "Patina, Provenance, Originality"and it includes some pretty amazing cars.  Some favourites of mine were a 1963 Corvette Coupe (split window!) and a 1915 Duesenberg race car.

The exhibit celebrates the philosophy of the museum, which is preservation and conservation over restoration.  As an archivist, I can appreciate the value of preserving the originality of an unrestored classic.  Preservation allows people to see the real, honest history associated with a vehicle; the materials that were actually used in its production, the way things wore out, how it ran, etc.   

1963 Corvette Split-Window Coupe!
When a car is restored, its individual charm and character is essentially wiped clean.  Although it may retain it's manufactured beauty, it becomes indistinguishable from any other car that was produced along side of it.  When a car is preserved, that car remains an individual with a unique soul.  These cars are Larz Anderson's cars not because he happened to own them, but because they still display the dings, wear and scratches they developed as a result of being used by him (and the missus).  They are a direct link to that person's experiences and passion.  Restoration may breath new life into a car, but preservation breathes new life into the past.    

Well, that's enough preaching from me.  Bottom line is, the Larz Anderson Auto Museum is a must visit for any fan of cars or history in general.  You can see more photos of the visit on Automophiliac's Facebook page.  Check it out!   


No comments:

Post a Comment