Ian Wisniewski talks with Christine McCafferty,Diageo's archive manager
IAN Can you tell me the history of the archive?CHRISTINE It started in 1990 when what was then United Distillers decided to create an archive of the historical material of the brand companies and distilleries in one place.They employed a historian, Dr Morgan, who is now global marketing director for the malts, to do this. In 2001 we moved to our present site in Scotland, we were fortunate that this lovely stone building was here, and we took the opportunity to build new stores onto the side of it.IAN What period does the archive cover ?CHRISTINE The majority of the collections start in the mid to late 19th century. Things like production books from distilleries and sales records, as well as packaging, tend to start in the 1880s. In the Johnnie Walker collection there’s an inventory from 1825, not long after John Walker set up the grocery shop.IAN What’s the range of items within the archive?CHRISTINE We’ve catalogued about half a million items, but each catalogue entry might contain up to 20 – 30 individual items, and there’s still some material uncatalogued.The range is huge, if you look at a Scotch whisky company like Johnnie Walker we have old minute books, awards, marketing materials, as well as the packaging collection, bottles and label books, recipes and a photographic collection. We’ve got a book that contains notes by Sir Alexander Walker from about 1914-1916, with his recipes for Johnnie Walker Red Label, Black Label, and some other brands as well.IAN How detailed is the information on the production process ?CHRISTINE We’ve got quite an extensive library of reference books, and some old warehousing books tell us what type of wood was used for maturation.We’ve also got internal publications produced over the years with news updates on distilleries, so they’re a really good source of information.IAN Were all the items in the archive acquired from distilleries owned byDiageo ?CHRISTINE The majority of the material has come from within the company, occasionally we attend auctions to see if there’s something that might fill a gap.IAN Are historic items still turning up in some of your distilleries?CHRISTINE Recently during building work at Strathmill distillery we uncovered some distillery records for Strathmill, Glen Spey and Knockando, it’s a wonderful collection with records going back to the 1880s.IAN How do you balance keeping items in the archive,as opposed to exhibiting them in distilleries and visitor centres?CHRISTINE We’re really keen to get involved in projects that mean items from the archive, or reproductions, can be shown elsewhere, either within Diageo or outside, so we have supported displays at distillery visitor centres, and branding projects at particular sites like our offices in Edinburgh Park which has a brand centre.IAN Howwould you describe the role of the archive?CHRISTINE We’re here as an internal resource for anybody within Diageo, our main users are our marketing colleagues and it’s a broad range of areas that we could help with, from supplying information about a brand, or images to do with the history of a brand. We can also help with inspiration for a new product or a new packaging idea, just by looking at things that have been created in the past.IAN What’s your role as head archivist ?CHRISTINE There’s a team of five of us, four qualified archivists including myself, each responsible for certain brand collections. That includes a range of duties, from recataloguing the collection, answering enquiries and acquiring new material for that brand. I also manage the team, look after the building and the collection, finances, and head up any project work.IAN Is there any public access to the archive?CHRISTINE We’re not really open to the public but are more than happy to answer enquiries from anybody. We’ve had local history groups coming to see the archive, and visits from journalists and authors.IAN Are you collecting contemporary items on the basis that this is the archive of the future?CHRISTINE It’s vital to collect examples of new material as it’s created, so that our successors are able to access it just as people today can access the archive. We collect the whole range of material from new advertising campaigns, promotional material, new pack design or launch materials for a new brand, for every market Diageo operates in, and not just for Scotch whisky brands, it’s for all brands that Diageo owns.
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