Gems From the Vault: A Famous Find!

It’s not every day you come across celebrity photos.

But sometimes, our volunteers in “the vault” uncover an exciting image that sends them on a scavenger hunt!

If you’re not familiar with “the vault,” it’s the headquarters of the PPG’s digitization operation. Our hardworking volunteers have spent countless hours scanning, cropping, and cataloging original Packard photographs for posterity’s sake. This process takes a lot of painstaking effort, because it’s not enough to simply scan a photograph and put it back in its envelope. Meticulous details are added to each photo’s record, so that the relevant information is available for historical and research purposes.

(So thank you to all of our “vault volunteers”! Your hard work is keeping the Packard story alive, and you are awesome.)

Recently, an unconventional image was uncovered that prompted a journey down the research rabbit-hole.

Carolyn uncovers a conspiracy – is this photo fact or fiction?

Longtime vault volunteer Carolyn Connell was hard at work with her husband Pat, when she picked up an envelope with a bizarre image inside. It depicted a classic Packard parked on a cliffside, looking like it was about to careen off into the depths. And funnily enough, it was. However, this was no photo of an unexpected accident – it was movie magic.

The image is of a scene from the 1940 film Oh, Johnny, How You Can Love!, starring Tom Brown and Peggy Moran. Their brave costar (and the scene-stealer, in our opinion) is a 1936 Packard 1404 Super Eight Convertible Coupe Roadster. Carolyn included these details in the scanned photo’s permanent record, so that anyone who looks it up can see that it had some time in the limelight!

The scene in action – more proof that this car is famous! Carolyn added this printout to the photograph’s permanent record for added context.
All of the details have been exhaustively recorded with the photograph. Thank you, Carolyn!

It took some extra time to determine that, though.

Again, there were precious few details listed with this image when Carolyn removed it from its protective folder. But she wasn’t content to shrug off the mystery. The scanning stopped momentarily for some research into the specifics of the scene and the vehicle, but this time-consuming effort offered a lot of context to go with the image.

And we have Carolyn to thank for that context! Carolyn loves the challenge of historical mystery detective work, and she’s pretty darn good at it.  She has a natural curiosity that leads her off on many a wild goose chase, but she loves it, and the journey can be as interesting as the eventual discovery.  It really helps bring the history alive!

Want to learn more about volunteering at the PPG?

Make some fun discoveries of your own and spend some time with us! We have a lot of opportunities for people of all ages and interests to participate in our site’s operations and history! Click here to hear more about our volunteering process and to fill out a volunteer application. We look forward to getting to know you!


  • Emily Benoit

    Lover of research and writing, libraries and archives. Graduate of Oakland University's MA of English Literature program; and Wayne State University's MLIS program with an additional certification in archival administration.