Visionary leaders start with a single idea. In 1948, Cameron R. Argetsinger staged the first post-World War II road race in the United States, run through the streets of Watkins Glen, a sleepy little village in the Finger Lakes Region of New York State. From that start came a permanent racetrack that hosted Formula 1’s United States Grand Prix for 20 years, as well events for nearly every other major auto racing organizing body in the United States – and ultimately became Watkins Glen International (WGI).
In 1996, WGI officials and local community leaders started to talk about how to celebrate the 50th anniversary of motor racing in Watkins Glen in 1998. Cameron’s wife, Jean, a longtime library board member, proposed an addition to the Watkins Glen Public Library that would allow expansion of its small but excellent collection of motor racing books.
Her tireless work culminated in the International Motor Racing Research Center (IMRRC), whose mission is to collect, preserve and share the history of motor racing. No longer limited to books, the Center’s collection includes nearly 5,000 volumes, hundreds of DVD and VHS recordings, periodicals dating back to the 1930s, thousands of slides, photographs, negatives and films, race programs from around the world, trophies, artwork, models, race results, and much more.
A rotating display of a historically significant race cars serves as a centerpiece.
While scholars, journalists, authors, documentary filmmakers, drivers and racecar owners from around the world use its archival collections, the Center welcomes serious researchers and casual fans alike to share the stories of races, drivers, and cars, captured on the shelves and walls of the Center and brought to life through public lectures and special events. Admission is free; the Center is open Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
The Center is funded by member support, corporate sponsorships, grants, income from an endowment, as well as by fundraising activities, including an annual car sweepstakes and an annual awards dinner honoring motor racing greats. This year’s sweepstakes features a 2020 Corvette Stingray; the drawing will be held on December 28.