There’s An Archivist For That! Interview with Jacqueline Seargeant, Global Archive Manager, John Dewar & Sons Ltd

This is the latest post in our There’s an Archivist for That! series, which features examples of archivists working in places you might not expect. In this entry, Committee on Public Awareness (COPA) member Rachel Seale brings you an interview with Jacqueline Seargeant, Global Archive Manager, John Dewar & Sons Ltd.

Jacqui Seargeant in the Scotch whisky archive

Jacqui Seargeant in the Scotch whisky archive. Photograph courtesy of Bacardi.

Jacqui graduated from Glasgow University with a Master of Arts in History in 1994, followed by a postgraduate Master’s degree in Archive Administration from the University of Liverpool. Her earliest archive work included cataloguing and managing collections at Herriot-Watt University, the Scottish Brewing Archive, and Allied Distillers.

Jacqui started working for John Dewar & Sons in 1999 as the Company Archivist. Her role has developed substantially since then and today Jacqui is the Global Heritage Manager for all historical collections owned by the Bacardi company, including unique business archives, family archives, museum and art collections.

Over the years she’s been instrumental in creating and developing many of the heritage elements for the Scotch Whisky brands, including the heritage exhibitions at the Home of DEWAR’S based at Aberfeldy Distillery. Other projects have included the development of the heritage elements of various brand visual identities, marketing initiatives, product packaging and new product development as well as historical brand education. It’s Jacqui’s meticulous curation of our extensive archives that allow Dewar’s to lay claim to being the World’s Most Awarded Blended Scotch.

How did you get your gig?

I came to the company on a one-year contract in 1999, to help them create a heritage exhibition at the newly created DEWAR’S brand home visitor center at Aberfeldy in Scotland. 20 years later I’m still with the company and the role has developed gradually from Dewar’s Archivist to the Global Archive Manager for all brands with archives. I joined the year after the Bacardi company acquired DEWAR’S Blended Scotch Whisky and with it an amazing business archive collection. I had already worked at the Scottish Brewing Archive and for Allied Distillers, so I understood the business and record types and was able to demonstrate the power of the collection for their business. I had, however, never managed my own archive collection, I had always been part of an archive team, so that was exciting for me and my career development. Within a very short time I was providing images to revamp office spaces, getting involved in the brand education program, helping to defend legal claims and providing heritage inspired ideas for new product developments. It was a steep learning curve for me and a bold move, but my previous work in the drinks industry gave me a foundation that allowed me to jump right in.

Bacardi prohibition era postcard email, has Florida at top and Cuba on bottom, with people drinking rum in between. Bacardi logo then text below "Flying to Heaven with Bacardi"

Bacardi prohibition era postcard email. Courtesy of the Bacardi Archive.

Tell us about your organization

Bacardi is the largest privately held spirits company in the world. What is most remarkable to me is that it remains a family-owned company after seven generations. The company was founded more than 157 years ago in Santiago de Cuba and has incredible stories made for the movies! Our company founder, Don Facundo Bacardí Massó, revolutionized rum making with the creation of the first light-bodied rum which transformed the rum industry. Since those early days the company has grown massively to cover more than 20 production sites across the globe. Today the Company owns more than 200 brands and labels, including the core heritage brands of BACARDÍ rum, DEWAR’S blended Scotch whisky, MARTINI vermouths and sparkling wines, BOMBAY SAPPHIRE gin, BARON OTARD cognac and NOILLY PRAT vermouth. Some of our brands, like BÉNÉDICTINE, have a 500+ year old history – we have a lot of heritage to preserve!

Describe your collections

We have amazing historical resources within our Company, including business archives, brand advertising materials and objects, bottles full of spirits and actual museum collections.  More than fifteen of our brands have a long history, and we have four main collections in five different countries – Bermuda, the USA, the UK, France and Italy. In total, we care for more than 3000 linear meters (3km) of archives which, if stacked up, is thirty two times the height of the Statue of Liberty. The archive collections are fundamental to our brand identities and brand developments. We are not just about preserving the past, we are about building the future by inspiring brand teams, mixologists and others who help craft new legacy cocktails and new campaigns.

 

 

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The Bacardi Archive is at our north American Regional Headquarters in Coral Gables, FL. Bacardi was founded in Cuba in 1862, but on Oct 14th 1960 the Company’s Cuban assets were illegally confiscated by revolutionary government forces. As you would imagine that has affected what is in the collection, although the business did have a geographical reach beyond Cuba by that date including plants or offices in Spain, Mexico, the USA and Puerto Rico. The Bacardi Archive was created just over 20 years ago in Miami by a family member, passionate about preserving the story. Over the years, the collection has grown from a tiny shoebox of slides, to a room of more than 400 meters of shelving. It includes over 30,000 catalogued assets dating back to the 1850s, such as the early documents of the founding of the company, medals awarded since the 1870s, the company’s earliest advertising campaign from the 1890s, photographs of distilleries and family members, trademarks and promotional items as well as many rum bottles, including one from the pre-Prohibition Era.

 

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The DEWAR’S collection is housed in Scotland where our whiskies are made. Here you will find one of the best advertising archives of any brand, including a copy of the first cinematic advert for a drinks products. The ad was made in 1897 and was the brainchild of one of the Company’s founders, Thomas Dewar, who was an early pioneer of new advertising techniques. You can see his influence in our many old adverts and promotional objects including numerous old ceramic flagons made by Royal Doulton which would have originally held the company’s whisky. We even have an 1897 patent in the archive for branding the tires of bicycles and cart wheels so they left your brand name in the dirt and mud of the street. Essentially if something could be branded, Thomas Dewar probably branded it.

The Martini Museum of Wine

View of the Martini Museum of Wine courtesy of the Martini Archive.

In addition to our many business archives, we also own two incredible museum collections. The Martini & Rossi collection, which is located near Turin in Italy, includes the Martini Museum of Wine, which has 16 rooms of artefacts dating from the 7th Century BC onwards, relating to the production and enjoyment of wine. Our French brands archives in the north of France include the brands of NOILLY PRAT vermouth, BARON OTARD cognac and BÉNÉDICTINE liqueur. The Bénédictine collection incorporates a museum collection of religious antiquities, relating to the origins of the liqueur’s recipe and the Bénédictine order.

I love the fact that every item and object tells a story which relates to not just our own company and business, but also to local, national and international history and culture. For example, during the time of 1920s prohibition in the USA, Bacardi produced postcards in Cuba which featured a dry America and ‘wet’ Cuba, with a caricature of Uncle Sam having a cocktail in Cuba. Alcohol advertising was banned in the USA at this time, but American visitors to Cuba would be given these postcards for free, and send them back to friends in the USA and so they found their way in anyway and encouraged people to come and try BACARDÍ rum in Cuba!

What are some challenges unique to your collections?

As a spirits company we of course want to preserve and showcase old bottles and storing them has some fairly unique challenges. There can be a lot of evaporation from old corked bottles, so the atmosphere in the bottle archive can be quite humid, and caps may get moldy. For that reason (and due to the flammable nature of the liquid) we do attempt to keep the bottle collection separate from the paper collections, and we keep a close eye on evaporation and mold development. Some people would argue that the liquid could be thrown away, but that would significantly decrease the value of the collection, and a great deal of it should still be drinkable. Keeping the full bottles also allows us to potentially analyze the contents of blends of the past in our laboratories, in cases where the recipes no longer survive.

Products like BACARDÍ & cola kept in a can will eventually leak as the cola is quite acidic and will  work its way through the metal, so we need to remember to empty those before archiving (we learned this the hard way!). As if the bottles weren’t tricky enough, we also have some real bats in the archive, obviously long dead and preserved, but none-the-less challenging to keep in good condition! The bat has been the brand icon for BACARDÍ since the early days of the Company, when the founder’s wife discovered fruit bats nesting in the roof of the original distillery. According to Cuban and Spanish culture, they are a symbol of health, good fortune and family unity and the fruit bat has been a part of the Company logo ever since. The rum became known as ‘El Ron del Murcielago’ or The Rum of the Bat. More than 150 years later, the bat remains an icon and such a recognized brand symbol.

What is the favorite part of your job?

Hands on archive work, without a doubt – cataloguing, organizing, making order out of chaos and along the way discovering something new about our history. The best moments are when you uncover something new that you know is going to help your business – those moments are great. While researching one of the DEWAR’S founders, Thomas Dewar, I accidentally found a newspaper article from 1905 in which he claimed to be the first person to create the Highball cocktail during his first trip to New York in the 1890s. My further research revealed that the company had trademarked the words ‘high ball’ a few years later. We are now using this story as a major sales and marketing approach which is helping drive the popularity of the DEWAR’S Highball cocktail in Japan and other markets. It doesn’t get any better than that, feeling like you are keeping the history alive, at the same time as contributing to the current and future business.

The new Martini Archive with Anna Scudellari our Archivist

The new Martini Archive with Anna Scudellari, our Archivist courtesy of the Martini Archive.

I think that example also reflects how we are a live part of the business, contributing to our brands’ successes and identities, as well as driving company culture. A series of oral history interviews with retired family members inspired our company’s effort to reignite our culture with the 3 Fs – Fearless, Family, Founders. These words simply came out of what the people were saying to our interviewer when talking about their time working for the company, it was a very clear and natural direction and links heavily into our heritage. Our contributions can therefore be unexpected and pivotal and we are lucky enough to work in a company where people listen to our ideas and discoveries because they understand the power of our heritage and how it contributes to who we are today.

Finally, I have to say that my role is especially privileged because as the Global Archive Manager I periodically have to visit our archives all over the world, including our brand homes and visitor centers which have heritage exhibitions, to oversee physical projects and develop exhibitions. The brand homes are where we enable the public to experience our brands, products and rich histories, usually in the historical place or ‘home’ where they are made. For example I was recently at Casa MARTINI, our brand home for the MARTINI brand to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the archive and the inauguration of our new archive storage there, with the Mayor of Turin attending our special reception. This is one of my favorite places, where you can enjoy a MARTINI Bianco and soda with a twist of lime (well that’s my favorite!!) in the Terrazza MARTINI, explore the origins and development of the beautiful MARTINI brand and even experience the Museum of wine with ancient Roman amphora and beautifully carved centuries old wine presses. For someone who loves history, this job ticks every box!

Stay tuned for future posts in the “There’s an Archivist for That!” series, featuring stories on archivists working in places you might not expect. If you know of an archivist who fits this description or are yourself an archivist who fits this description, the editors would love to hear from you—share in the comments below or contact archivesaware@archivists.org to be interviewed for ArchivesAWARE!

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