• Image about Polaroid
Clearly, there is value in the company’s good reputation and long history. This fact is not lost on Deborah Douglas at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Earlier this year, Douglas, the MIT Museum’s curator of science and technology, oversaw the mounting of a Polaroid exhibition, which came from a nearly 10,000-artifact collection that Polaroid donated to the museum. “Right now, in this cultural moment, there is enormous resonance and interest in great American brands,” says Douglas. “During these days — with oil wells leaking and companies that cheat you — it is appealing to look back at a company like Polaroid. It made great products, used the best designers and had no moral failings. Polaroid invented instant communication. That is very powerful, and it is now with us more than ever.”

Beyond allowing museum visitors to see the various cameras that Polaroid has put out over the years, the collection serves a larger, possibly less expected purpose. Loaded with prototypes, blueprints and schematics, it shows the evolution of Polaroid’s groundbreaking ideas and explores the creative paths taken by the company’s elite core of engineers. The collection also inspires fresh appreciations for Polaroid. “One of my colleagues turned to me and said, ‘Oh, my God, I would love this for scrapbooking,’ ” says Douglas. “Getting an instant photo, in exactly the right size and exactly the right format, is something that people like. I’ve also found out that Polaroid pictures are preferred by the police. They can photograph evidence and not be accused of doctoring the picture.”

Survival Story
Fans have found plenty of ways to keep Polaroid’s classic style alive. Check out some of our favorite websites:

Gorilla vs. Bear: David Bartholow uses a Polaroid to snap photos for his popular indie music blog. www.gorillavsbear.net/

The Impossible Project: This is where Polaroid lovers go to buy film, cameras and more. www.the-impossible-project.com

Poladroid: Download this free program to make your digital pics look like Polaroids. www.poladroid.net

Even during Polaroid’s darkest days, when the brand was in danger of disappearing altogether, acolytes hung in there. They found ways to continue with it when the company itself would not. Jennifer Trausch and John Reuter, who had been running Polaroid’s Manhattan-based photo studio, which features a special, oversize Polaroid camera that produces instant 20-inch-by-24-inch prints, wound up buying the equipment from Polaroid and going it independently. This was much to the relief of artists such as Chuck Close, Timothy Greenfield-Sanders and William Wegman, all of whom have shot signature images with the big camera. When Polaroid announced that it would stop making film for its standard cameras, an Austrian entrepreneur by the name of Florian Kaps purchased a film-producing factory in the Netherlands. Thanks to him and his enterprise, which has been dubbed the “Impossible Project,” people with original Polaroid cameras can still buy film. However, the Impossible Project does not make film for the five large-format cameras currently in existence. But that’s OK, at least for the time being. “We cannot get new film now,” acknowledges Trausch. “But we’ve stockpiled what was available. We have raw film for the next four or five years.”

Or, who knows, maybe Polaroid itself will get back into that more artful, more rarefied end of the business. Company president Scott Hardy, after all, talks about proceeding “with no limits and no boundaries.” And he clearly believes that there is a whole new market out there for him and for Polaroid. He recounts a research study in which a group of 16-year-old girls with cell phones were given access to a PoGo printer. “They immediately began printing; images were flying off of the printer,” he recalls. “They appreciated the magic of the Polaroid moment. Even in the digital world, there is something magical about having an instant image.”