The new home of the Kettering University Archive at GM’s Durant-Dort Factory One was officially unveiled May 1.
Factory One, which initially opened in 1886 in Flint’s Carriage Town neighborhood, was an early epicenter of the automotive industry and is considered the birthplace of General Motors. GM acquired the building in 2013 and recently completed a major historic renovation, converting the building into a state-of-the-art automotive research center and community event space, which now includes the Kettering University Archive.
“The city of Flint, GM and Kettering (formerly General Motors Institute) share a legacy known the world over that has its origins right here in Durant-Dort Factory One,” said Kettering University President Dr. Robert K. McMahan. “The Kettering Archives include unique and rare pieces that make it truly one of the top collections of automotive history in the country. If you scan through our visitor’s log, you will see the names of an incredibly diverse group of people who have all come to our campus to use the Archives to support research projects across a vast range of subjects – and they were here because it is the only place in the world where they could find the materials key to their research.”
The Kettering University Archive was established in 1974, largely through the efforts of Professor Richard P. Scharchburg, a nationally known historian who taught at Kettering for more than 36 years, as well as members of the University’s Alumni Association. The collection includes more than 100,000 items, including documents, photographs and artifacts from the carriage-building and early years of automotive manufacturing in Flint.
In Factory One, the Kettering Archives will now be more accessible to the general public, school groups, media, scholars, historians and community members interested in this country’s deep and important contributions to the automotive industry – past, present, and future.
Among the many collections included in the Archive are:
The papers of Billy Durant, including correspondence and records from the Durant-Dort Carriage Factory and the early days of General Motors;
Artifacts from Charles Kettering, Kettering University’s namesake and GM’s longtime director of research and development;
Photographs of GM factories in Flint dating back to the early 1900s that provide a history of U.S. manufacturing in the first half of the 20th century;
Collections from influential GM executives, including Harlow Curtice, head of GM from 1953-58; Elliott “Pete” Estes, GM president from 1974-1981; and Francis James McDonald, GM President and COO from 1981-1987;
Rare collections from Flint’s history, including a large assortment of artifacts from Kettering University’s Atwood Stadium.
The partnership with GM to move the Kettering University Archive to Factory One resulted from a strong belief in the idea presented by McMahan to Mark Reuss, GM executive vice president of Global Product Development, Purchasing and Supply Chain, and Kevin Kirbitz ‘84, Factory One operations manager.
“We are deeply thankful to GM, particularly to Mark and Kevin, for their commitment to Flint and their belief in this project,” McMahan said. “This facility is a tremendous community and academic resource, and we are honored to partner with GM to bring this unique part of our campus into downtown Flint.”
Kettering University Director of Special Collections and Archives Dr. Greg Miller, a nationally accomplished historian and archivist who has deep family roots in the Flint area, will staff the Archive in Factory One. Miller has a deep love of the automotive industry and its history and is passionate about making these collections accessible to as many audiences as possible.
“With our move to a beautiful new home in this magnificent facility we transform the Kettering University Archives from a hidden treasure to a prominent piece of the downtown Flint landscape,” McMahan said. “In doing so we create another unique attraction for the city that will be recognized by and attract scholars and automotive enthusiasts worldwide. We do this because we believe in Flint, and we are deeply committed to the rebirth of our community and our home.”