Working at The Coca-Cola Company’s global headquarters in Atlanta, archivist Justine Fletcher looks after thousands of priceless Coca-Cola artefacts. Here she discusses how she got her job, tells us about the most touching moment in her career, and reveals her favourite item from the archives...
I’ve always wanted to work for Coca-Cola. It has special memories for me. When I was a kid, my dad would sometimes surprise me by picking up a pizza and some Coca-Cola on the way home from work. As a result, Coca-Cola always reminds me of quality family time.
Why it’s the right role for me
My degree is in public history, which involves working with curators, helping to develop exhibits, writing label copy and working with the public and the media. Basically telling the history of something through exhibits and artefacts.
How I got the job at The Coca-Cola Company
I was working as an intern for a local museum and I mentioned to my boss there that I’d always dreamt of working for Coca-Cola. Surprisingly, she said that she knew Phil Mooney, who is the Director of the Coca-Cola Archives Department. She offered to write to him for me, but I never expected anything to come of it.
I’d almost completely forgotten about it until weeks later when I got a letter from Phil asking if I’d like to intern with him and the team at the Coca-Cola archives. When I got the letter I literally fell off my chair! I couldn’t believe it.
What my day involves
I’ve worked my way up and now I’m now one of two processing archivists in our department. We have four full time team members – the Director, Manager, myself and a cataloging archivist. There are lots of facets to my job. One of which is to speak to the public about the history of Coca-Cola, another is to work with the global brand managers answering questions and helping them to find certain artefacts for shows or to exhibit in their offices.
One of my favourite jobs so far has been helping to curate the heritage wall at Coca-Cola Great Britain's headquarters in London. Most of the items on the wall have been carefully shipped from our archives in Atlanta. We don’t reproduce things, we send originals of everything.
The Heritage Wall at Coca-Cola London HQ
One of my best ever moments
A lady got in touch recently and said: “My grandfather used to work in the Coca-Cola bottling plant in New Orleans, but he was very poor and we never had a picture of him. I’d love to see what he looked like.”
I did some research on him and found that because he’d worked for the company for 20 years, there was actually a service photo of him in the records. I scanned it in and sent it over to her. She wrote back to me and said she’d had to run into the toilets and cry because she’d never seen a photo of her grandfather before. Those are the kinds of thing that make my job really special.
My favourite artefact
We have thousands upon thousands of pieces in the archives, but if I had to choose a favourite artefact it would be the 1949 White Motor Company delivery motor truck, that’s painted yellow.
It’s currently kept in a climate-controlled warehouse that’s been designed especially for vehicles. We bought it from an auction and we bring it out for special events. We lend it out for films and festivals and recently displayed it at the Clinton Presidential Library in Arkansas.
The Coca-Cola Collectors Fair
One other big part of my job is liaising between the company and passionate Coca-Cola collectors. I travelled over to London to help organise and host their first Coca-Cola Collectors Fair, which was awesome. Coming to the UK to meet the collectors who had travelled from all over Europe (and some as far away as South America!) was incredible – I even found some new merchandise and memorabilia for the archives!
We don’t buy up everything for the Coca-Cola archive. That would be impossible – there are just too many things! But if a particular artefact fills a specific hole in the collection or is highly unusual, then we’ll buy it.
Find out more about the London Coca-Cola Collectors Fair 2016
What we do always buy…
Something we’ll always try to buy is the original Coca-Cola artwork, especially by the artist Norman Rockwell. All the old Coca-Cola advertising was based on original art. Artists would paint these stunningly skillful and intricate pictures and then they’d be sent to the printers and they’d make calendars out of it and print ads.
What it would be amazing to find…
I’d love to find the submitted designs for the Coca-Cola bottle. In 1915 Coca-Cola ran a competition asking glass companies to come up with a design for a Coca-Cola bottle that would be recognisable in the dark or broken on the ground. We’re obviously very familiar with the winning iconic glass Contour Bottle, but there were five or eight bottling companies that submitted ideas. But we don’t know what those other submissions were. I’d love to find those rejected designs.
Find out more about the 130-year history of The Coca-Cola Company.
Justine Fletcher is a Processing Archivist at The Coca-Cola Company. She’s been working at Coca-Cola since 2010.