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Science
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Five programmes recorded on location at definitive collections.

Monday 16 September 2002, 9.30-9.45am

Quentin Cooper goes to Stirling to visit the archive of the world’s spirit drinks manufacturer, Diageo. He finds out how the company uses its 250 year old heritage in its marketing and brewing today and how historians refer to the collection to chart the economic and social history of British booze.

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This is the final programme in a series of five. Each is recorded on location at an unique or definitive collection of some sort (eg teeth, plants, ice, recordings of English dialects). With the help of the resident curators and visiting experts, presenter Quentin Cooper explores the highlights (and oddities) within each collection. He discovers each collections’ value as resource for answering any number of research questions - from how to treat tooth decay in pandas to what spoken English sounded like in time of Chaucer.

Diageo is the world’s largest spirits manufacturer, producing brands such as Gordon’s gin, Johnny Walker scotch, and Smirnoff vodka. The company keeps an archive collection of hundreds of their old bottles, advertisements, malt and grain blending sheets (recipes in effect) and other company records. Some of the gin bottles (still containing the gin) date back to the 1760s. Archive manager Christine Jones takes Quentin Cooper on a tour of the collection.

She explains its value to the company itself. One aspect is heritage marketing – referring to past traditions of bottle design in the design of the company’s packaging today. The same is true with their advertising posters and slogans.

The historical blending/manufacturing records are also used by the company as a reference resource in the production of its drinks today, and for the wider British drinks industry to set the standards and definitions as to what constitutes, say, a true Scotch whisky.

Academics from universities also pay the Diageo archive regular visits to research the economic and social history of the British drinks industry. Distilling was a huge industry in the 18th and 19th century, particularly in Scotland and London (gin) and was an important direct and indirect influence (for good or ill) during the Industrial Revolution.

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