IMS museum works to restore historic Indy 500 memories

(Provided Photo/IMS)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH)  Picture this – Indiana’s bicentennial is being celebrated the same year as the centennial running of the Indianapolis 500. When it comes to the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing” it’s all documented for all to enjoy.

It’s simple to see and all you have to do is go to the second floor of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Hall of Fame Museum. Visitor can see a moment with Mario Andretti in 1986 that you’d swear was taken yesterday. There’s also an image from 1962, with people who should be instantly recognizable but aren’t.

Brian Simpson, Manager of Photo Operations told 24-Hour News 8 that all the history is there.

“The cool thing about in here specifically is you can look at these and you are looking back to a specific moment in 100 year history,” Simpson said.

All of it, stored in several file drawers, books and binders, in a fireproof room above the museum.

“In total our archive is just over 4 million photos.  But like I said, its growing on a yearly basis. We’ve got 4 million now, but we’ll probably take another 300,000 or 400,000 over the month of May., Simpson said.

There are millions of moments captured with the click of a shutter.

“It kind of transports you back to that specific moment. You get some incredible insights from that stuff. You can really see emotion,” Simpson said.

These images are an insight into the emotion of some of the the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s history. Especially one particular image.

“This is actually just right before the start of the first Indianapolis 500. There are about 80,000 people estimated there that day,” says track photographer Chris Owens.

He is showing a panoramic picture of the cars lined up getting ready for the start of the very first Indy 500 in 1916.  There were an estimated 80,000 people there that day. The number was larger than the entire population of Indianapolis at the time, a trend that continues every year.

“You know it gives even photographers goose bumps. It’s a big event. A big deal. Its a real honor, says Owens.  “It’s a real honor, because we don’t live forever. But this archive will. So, we’ve had a lot of great guys and we’ll always have their captures and their moments in time.”

Old pictures that will always be there, because new digital technology is saving them to the cloud before they die of old age.

“Generally speaking we’re constantly trying to scan in everything that we have that is historical that isn’t already digitized, says Simpson, Manager of Photo Operations.

So far 70,000 images have been digitized. Thousands more will be added for this years historic race.

“We’re really trying to make sure that we’re capturing those same moments for the next hundred years. Someday 100 years from now, they’ll say thank goodness we had the photo team we had because they were able to capture those really incredible moments in the 100th anniversary,” Simpson says.

Owen already has plans to get one of the most iconic images for this years epic race.

“I’m really looking forward to getting that start shot. From all 33 cars coming down the front stretch at once. Knowing that this is the 100th time that we’ve put on this amazing spectacle.”

Pictures in the Speedway archives are for everyone to enjoy. They can be viewed and purchased on the second floor of the Speedway museum or online.

For more Indy 500 stories, click here and for other Bicentennial stories click here.

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