The Challenges of Document Preservation
Commodore historians are perhaps fortunate that in the earliest years of the company, Commodore ran somewhat afoul of the authorities due to their relationship with the Atlantic Acceptance Corporation. Atlantic Acceptance was a Canadian finance company who was funding much of Commodore’s early growth. Atlantic collapsed in 1965 amid allegations of serious financial fraud and the Canadian government opened an investigation into the matter. This investigation resulted in dozens of boxes of interviews with and documents about all the players in Atlantic’s affairs, including the fledgling Commodore and several other associated companies that were created by Jack Tramiel and Manfred Kapp. If not for this documentation it’s likely that much of Commodore’s early history would simply be lost.
The summary report of the Atlantic investigation was digitized in 2010 by the Internet Archive thanks to funding by The Law Foundation of Ontario and the Ontario Council of University Libraries. You can find that here. The dozens of boxes of source evidence that went into this report, however, were never digitized. Purely by coincidence, both Brian Bagnall (author of several books on Commodore’s history including “A Company on the Edge”) and Dave McMurtrie (the creator of this site) became aware of the existence of the source evidence being stored at the Archives of Ontario. We both reached out to the Archives of Ontario in 2020 and we both found out that unfortunately, they were effectively closed down due to Covid. Only emergency requests for documents were being honored. While we were waiting, Brian and I got in touch with one another and once the Archives of Ontario re-opened we launched a funding campaign to preserve as many of the source documents as we possibly can.
To anyone reading this who contributed to our campaign, THANK YOU!!! Because of your generosity, I’m writing this blog post this evening.
The funding we received is substantial but likely not enough to request every source document. The Archives has a box count but not total page counts so we can’t know how many total pages there are. Brian and I started to work our way through the list of evidence exhibits and we chose what we thought would contain the most historical information. For example, we expected that a deposition of Jack Tramiel would provide significant value as compared to something like a list of Everest stockholders. We were somewhat dismayed by the depositions, though. The questions being asked by the Royal Commission seemed to be uninformed, and the answers being provided by Jack Tramiel were often along the lines of, “I don’t remember, but if that’s what the minutes say then it must be true”. It was a lot of good information, but we didn’t want to squander our funding so Brian booked a trip to visit the Archives of Ontario in person so he could look through the evidence and make more informed choices about what to preserve.
You can view everything we’ve preserved thus far by visiting this link.
If you click on the above link, you’ll be able to see the results of our preservation efforts up to this point. The process has been fairly straightforward: we tell the Archives of Ontario folks which documents we want, they scan what we ask for and send us the scans. We then take the scans, watermark them with contributor attributions on each page, include an informative front and back cover sheet and then upload to the Internet Archive. The scans we uploaded were untouched otherwise.
When Brian visited the Archives of Ontario in person in September 2022, he was not allowed to use a scanner on 60 year old documents, but since he was there he chose to take photos of any worthwhile source documents he discovered. We’re now working through the many photos he took and converting those into pdf documents for archival. This process has been much more time-consuming than when we previously purchased the scanned documents.
Converting Brian’s photos into pdf documents
Generally, the process involves using photo editing software to capture just the document and edit out the table in the background, then scale the image to normalize the page sizes and make them match the other documents. You can see a before and after example here.
How we’re handling blurry source images
During his time visiting the Archives of Ontario, Brian took hundreds of photos of documents. Most of the photos are very clear and we’re able to create quality documents for archival from the photos. Some of the photos came out blurry and we haven’t been able to come up with any way to fix them. We’ve tried a few different software packages and we weren’t able to achieve acceptable results. Ultimately, we made a decision that for pages that aren’t legible in their source format we will recreate the text by typing it in from scratch. Any pages that we have to recreate in this manner will be clearly watermarked when we upload them for archival.
As you can see, the recreation is not perfect if you compare the font, font size and alignment, but the text itself is exact. When you view the archived document, there will be a watermark on this page to make it obvious that the document text is not original such that it’s clear we’re not attempting to create any document forgeries.
Work is ongoing!
We still have several documents to archive from Brian’s recent visit, and we’ll be working on them diligently. I wanted to post this so donors know what we’re working on. We’ll continue to send out updates as we make progress.