• Share

A World of Stories: Behind the Scenes at the Coca-Cola Archives

By:  Unbottled Staff Mar 18, 2014
Tags & Topics:
Ted Ryan with Coca-Cola Guitar in the Archives

Coca-Cola Great Britain recently interviewed Ted Ryan, director of heritage communications, to pick up a few secrets about the world’s largest Coke memorabilia collection.

My team is responsible for Coca-Cola’s heritage. We communicate on a range of platforms – the Coca-Cola Conversations blog, Twitter, Facebook – and we’re major contributors to Coca-Cola websites around the world, including Coke Journey.

One of my old bosses used to say that you get the trademark and you just polish it a little brighter each day, making sure all the information that goes out about Coca-Cola is accurate and tells a great story.

A typical day in the archives…

Requests come in from around the world every day. For example, this morning the first email I opened was from Brazil, and they want an exhibit of FIFA material for the 2014 World Cup as they’re going to build a mini museum in São Paulo.

We work very closely with the global brand managers. If they’re going to do a packaging redesign or something like that, we’ll provide information on what those brands have done in the past. This isn’t so they can repeat campaigns, it’s always to show what we’ve done in the past – what worked and what didn’t.

We’re constantly acquiring materials for the archives. The collectors of the world would love it – we’re always scanning auction sites such as Christie’s (we didn’t bid on the $57 million Warhol painting, though).

View the Full-Screen Image Gallery of the Archives. 

Big shoutout to the photographer, AJ Brustein.

Coca-Cola Archives
AJ Brustein

Miles of memorabilia

We have a giant room, filled with Coca-Cola artifacts. If you took out all the shelves in the room and laid them end-to-end, they would stretch for 2.4 miles. And then we have flat files where we store all our oversized posters. We also have an offsite storehouse where we keep all the vending machines and a couple of trucks – people love the vintage delivery trucks.

A priceless collection

One of my favorite moments since working at Coca-Cola was the opening of the World of Coca-Cola. It was a two-and-a-half-year project, which involved opening the secret formula exhibit. We kept it secret up until the day it opened.

The Coca-Cola secret formula is our most valuable artifact. After that it’s the Norman Rockwell paintings, and the first-ever sketch of the contour bottle.

People always ask how many things we have – and there’s really no way you can count. The best way to describe it is: we’ve tried to get a sample of all Coca-Cola advertising over the past 127 years. There are still lots of things we’re missing, but we try to get as much as we can.

Ted’s favorite…

Piece of Coca-Cola memorabilia: “The ‘Yes Girl’ (1946) poster – it’s beautifully painted.”

Vintage bottle design: “The classic 1915 original contour bottle – I’m a purist!”

TV commercial: “The ‘Hilltop’ ad (1971). “I’m going to go back to visit every location involved – starting at Heathrow, then on to the Savoy hotel where the song was written and the studio where it was recorded.”