Viva Aviva Archiva


Blimey - all of this can go wrong. All phots courtesy of Aviva Archive

Blimey – all of this can go wrong. All photos courtesy of Aviva Archive

The history of insurance may seem an ideal cure for insomnia – but not in the hands of enterprising archivists.

Aviva has recently launched its new archive website and it’s a real treat – a very good example of what digital history can achieve  – appealing to visitors who just want to dip their toe in the water, those  in search of a quick paddle and others those diving in with a deeper scholarly interest.

  • At the pub quiz end you can find out what Dan Archer, LS Lowry, Jayne Torvill and acid bath murderer John Haigh had in common
  • Local historians can see the role played offices in their towns across Britain and Ireland in a lively series of posts following the Olympic flame
  • Or look at Sir Walter Scott’s original life assurance policy and manuscript endorsements following his financial collapse.

scott avivaThe site is well designed, and navigation is easy with a grepassengersat interactive timeline. Blog posts by chief archivist Anna Stone are witty and engaging and make full use of brilliant illustrations. as you can see here. It is meticu
lously documented and really welcoming although there may be scope for direct archive handle on Twitter.

They all date back to 1696 the Hand-in-Hand established at Tom’s Coffee House in London’s St Martin’s Lane. In my view it ranks alongside Carlsberg and Robert Bosch among the best corporate history sites in Europe.

The web remains the way to go for corporate history but that doesn’t mean the traditional book is finished. Obituaries for the eminent historian Lord Briggs last month also recalled his venture into this field with a commemorative printed history to mark the centenary of Marks and Spencer in 1993. All staff received a copy.San Francisco c1910

A good recent example is whisky writer Charlie Maclean’s sumptuous volume Famous for a Reason – the story of the Famous grouse 002Grouse  (Birlinn,2015).  It is magnificently written and illustrated. But you’ll need a strong shelf – it weighs more than 3 kilos.

The wee low flyer blend was created in Perth  by Matthew Gloag in 1896. Curiously, another whisky firm was also experimenting with new media even at that time. Thomas Edison shot a cinema advert for Dewar’s in 1897.

It scores nul points on artistic merit – just a few blokes pratting around in pretend kilts but worth a watch anyway because it is the oldest surviving, if not the first ever, movie commercial.



Categories: digital history, gems from the archive, history on the web

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