The wildfires in northern California destroyed a number of legendary documents valued at roughly $2 million, according to the Santa Rosa Press Democrat.
The highly prized, but essentially priceless files included archives of correspondence between William Hewlett and David Packard, the eponymous tech pioneers who created the famous electronics company Hewlett-Packard (HP) in 1938.
The documents, which amounted to more than 100 boxes worth of speeches, communications, and other writings, were appraised in 2005 at roughly $2 million. They were originally a part of a larger set of archives valued at $3.3 million. But many with knowledge of the unique documentation know that they’re of incalculable worth, since they tell a story of entrepreneurship that helped incite and establish a whole epicenter of commercial and technological innovation colloquially known today as Silicon Valley.
What seems to be most frustrating is that the archives were not long ago stored in facilities equipped with specialized vaults and flame retardants.
“A huge piece of American business history is gone,” Brad Whitworth, who had been an HP international affairs manager with oversight of the archives three decades ago, told the Press Democrat. HP had long been at the forefront of an industry “that has radically changed our world,” he continued.
California has been dealing with really dangerous wildfires, as well as the serious and sometimes fatal results, for multiple months.
“This could easily have been prevented, and it’s a huge loss,” said Karen Lewis, the former HP staff archivist who was responsible for first collecting the historic materials, according to the Press Democrat.
The documents were transferred from allegedly more well-protected facilities in 2014 to Keysight Technologies, the world’s largest electronics measurement company that has HP roots.
A portion of Keysight’s campus was destroyed by wildfires, but a large majority survived the fires. (RELATED: Some Hobbyists’ Drones Are Interrupting Firefighting Efforts In Northern California, Says FAA)
The company denies allegations that it didn’t do all it could to safeguard the precious documents.
“Keysight took appropriate and responsible steps to protect the company archives, but the most destructive firestorm in state history prevented efforts to protect portions of the collection,” a spokesman told the Press Democrat. “This is a sad, unfortunate situation — like many others in Sonoma County now. This is a time to begin healing, not assigning blame.”
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