DANVILLE

Herb Jorgensen stands alongside a shiny, red 1931 Packard -- a stereotypical gangster car built when he was 12 years old.

Gazing across the car collection, the 91-year-old archivist for the Blackhawk Museum knows he's enjoying a car buff's dream job.

The Blackhawk Museum, the brainchild of Blackhawk developer and car collector Kenneth Behring, opened its doors in 1988. Now affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution, the museum boasts two spacious buildings and about 100,000 square feet of upscale exhibition space that plays host to a rotating display of nearly 100 automobiles.

For the past 22 years, Jorgensen has overseen the building of the museum's modest-size research library, a collection that currently stands at approximately 100,000 publications. Many are in excellent condition, while others, including a 1904 Auto Car magazine, have covers that are a bit dog-eared and showing their age. All of them, however, provide a glimpse into the history of a machine that has changed the world.

"It probably is as good a library on old cars that you'll find anywhere," Jorgensen said.

The research library has information on nearly every car built since four-wheel vehicles hit the unpaved roads in the late 1800s.


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The Blackhawk Museum library is visited by a number of car buffs looking to restore old vehicles, people interested in genealogy and students looking to do school research, among others.

"Kids come in a lot," he said. "They're getting more interested in cars than they ever were before."

While librarians have the stereotype of being stuffy and academic, Jorgensen is the opposite.

Jorgensen "has a great desire to help people," said Blackhawk Museum Director Daniel Dunn. "When you meet him you'll get a genuinely nice guy. It really helps to put a stamp on the library."

Jorgensen admitted he wasn't enamored with cars as a teenager when he drove his first vehicle -- a hand-me-down Model-T Ford. But the rickety old transport was enough to start the process of getting him hooked on automobiles.

Over the years, Jorgensen has owned a number of vehicles, including one of the first Volkswagen coupes, which he drove while stationed in Japan after World War II. He has also been behind the wheel of various Chevrolets, Cadillacs and his current and all-time favorite car, a Mercedes S-Class sedan.

Jorgensen wouldn't choose a favorite from among the 90-plus classic cars on display at the museum. He said it's sort of like having a large number of children. He loves them all equally.

Still, he said he's just a tad partial to a 1937 Cadillac convertible.

Jorgensen normally works in the library a few hours two or three times a week. That's just enough to allow the 30-year Navy veteran and Pearl Harbor survivor to keep living by his personal philosophy to "never, ever fully retire."

"You need to keep working," he said. "If you quit and go to sleep, that's where you're going to be. Period."

BLACKHAWK MUSEUM
Where: 3700 Blackhawk Plaza, Danville
Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday
Admission: $10 for adults, $7 for students and seniors, free for children younger than 6 and for active military personnel.
Details: www.blackhawk
museum.org