Earlier this month, Justine Fletcher, the Processing Archivist for the Coca-Cola Archives, and I attended the opening of a major exhibition, Coca-Cola: An American Original at the William J. Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock, Arkansas. Justine is one of our lead curators for exhibits and had worked with the team from the National Archives and the Clinton Foundation for nearly two years to perfect the exhibit.
President Bill Clinton and our own Chairman and CEO Muhtar Kent both gave remarks at the opening. President Clinton acknowledged The Coca-Cola Company for keeping 32 commitments made at the Clinton Global Initiative.
Kent received the laugh of the night wondering aloud who from his team had approved him following one of America’s greatest speakers! His remarks highlighted the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Coca-Cola bottle and the wonderful art and stories featured in the exhibition.
The exhibit is divided into three sections. First, as visitors enter the Center, they encounter our beautiful yellow 1949 White Motor Company delivery truck. During the days I was there, the truck was an instant conversation starter as most people were surprised at the color.
The second section of the exhibit is on the ground floor of the museum in a gallery that features a selection of works from some of the greatest illustrators in our collection. We featured the finest of our Norman Rockwell paintings including Barefoot Boy, Gone Fishin and Concert on the Steps. Since the show will be up through the Christmas season, we displayed several of the original Coca-Cola Santa oil paintings by Haddon Sundblom. In all, 25 pieces of original art from our collection are on display.
The final portion of the exhibit focuses on the Coca-Cola bottle. We covered the history of the bottle via an extensive chronology that is highlighted by the original patent document and the original 1915 sketch of the bottle. The Clinton team worked with other Presidential Libraries to borrow a selection of photographs and artifacts showing how Presidential families interacted with Coca-Cola. The gallery also features an extensive selection of artwork by Andy Warhol, Howard Finster and Steve Penley. Immediately outside the gallery, the Clinton Center installed the 825 3D printed bottles designed by the Conran Group that had initially been installed at the High Museum in Atlanta:
Ted Ryan is director of Heritage Communications at The Coca-Cola Company.