I grew up in a Coca-Cola household. For 22 years, my grandfather drove a delivery truck for a Coca-Cola distribution center in Conway, South Carolina. Coke-themed items adorned my family’s cabinets, walls and toy bins. So when Ted Ryan and Phil Mooney paid me a visit here at the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory two years ago to talk about collaborating on an exhibition together, I couldn’t have been more excited!
The more we talked, the more we realized how many parallels there were between Coca-Cola and Louisville Slugger. Both went into business in the 1880s within two years of each other, both started from very small beginnings in the South, and both are well known all over the world today.
Putting together the exhibition was a lot of fun. I think sometimes people might not realize how much work it is to put an exhibition together. I worked a lot with Ted and Justine Fletcher from Coke to shape the storyline and select the objects. I traveled to the Coca-Cola Archives to see some of the items we ended up borrowing for the show. When it came time to install the show, you could feel the excitement in the room when my exhibits team began unpacking and placing these historic objects.
A Coca-Cola Christmas looks at how Coca-Cola went from being a summertime drink often found at baseball games in the early 20th century to a popular Christmastime soft drink. Some of the iconic pieces in the exhibit include an Elizabethtown, Ky. Coca-Cola-sponsored baseball jersey from the 1930s, original Haddon Sundblom artwork featuring the image of Santa Claus we all know today, Coke-themed toys and Coca-Cola holiday advertisements from around the world. There are a number of interactive elements, as well. Visitors can get their picture taken with Polar Bear cutouts, vote on their favorite holiday television special, and watch early Coca-Cola Christmas advertisements.
A Coca-Cola Christmas opened on Nov. 16 and has been a huge hit with our visitors. Already, our attendance is up much higher than last year at this time! It means a lot to be able to feature this exhibit here at Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory. Seeing two iconic American brands come together for such an exhibition has drawn a lot of positive attention from all over the region. We can’t wait to have it back again next year!
Nathan Stalvey is curator of the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory in Louisville, Ky. A Coca-Cola Christmas runs through Jan. 6, 2014. Learn more.