Repository Profile - Chevron Corporate Archive

Chevron's Living Institutional Memory :  From publications and photos to early oil pumps and a ceremonial rugby ball, the Chevron Corporate Archive documents a robust heritage (2009)

Spread over more than 4,000 square feet of company offices in Concord, California, the Chevron Corporate Archive offers a vast tableau of the oil industry’s rich and varied history over the past 130 years. Established within legacy-company Texaco in 1950 to collect historic material, the archive now provides a hefty record of Chevron’s growth from a modest oil prospecting organization formed in 1879 to its current status as one of the world’s great energy companies. The archive’s collection underscores this growth by encompassing the history of Chevron’s many legacy companies, which include such energy pioneers as Standard Oil Co. of California, Texaco Inc., Gulf Oil Corp., Getty Oil Co. and Unocal Corp.

Here’s a snapshot of what the archive’s 3,500 linear feet of material has to offer:

  • More than 500,000 photographs, some dating back to the earliest operations of Chevron and its legacy companies.
  • One hundred years of richly illustrated product advertisements.
  • Complete collections of such standard-setting company publications as the Texaco Star, Standard Oil Bulletin and The Orange Disc.
  • Film and video archives capturing such indelible moments as Texaco’s advertising jingles from The Milton Berle Show.
  • Biographies of legacy-company executives.
  • Personal scrapbooks of geologists documenting their pioneering search for oil in regions such as the Far East, Middle East and Latin America during the 1930s and 1940s.
  • Collectibles and memorabilia ranging from toy trucks, cars and oil tanks to original pumps, oil cans, and glass bottles and containers.

The archive uses Re:discovery Proficio software, which helps the staff organize the collection and assists in research and digital preservation. As the central source for historical information about the company, the archive is Chevron’s living institutional memory. Preserving and safeguarding the myriad historical records, photographs and artifacts is just the beginning of the job. Placing the relevant material at the fingertips of a business unit or corporate department is central to the archive’s mission.

For example, when the company prepared to reintroduce the Texaco brand to the U.S. public in 2004, the global brand team turned to the archive for historical material spanning more than a century. The archive’s extensive research into Texaco’s marketing heritage – with special focus on the groundbreaking 1940s’ “Trust Your Car” ad campaign – provided a strong starting point. The archive assembled an abundant array of photographs – including shots of early oil wells, roustabouts, barnstorming planes, attention-getting advertisements and engaging service station dealers – along with a wealth of background information. Within several weeks, the team created a Web site that underscored the rich heritage and performance of the Texaco brand, including the legacy of friendly and reliable service that distinguished Texaco since its earliest days.

In addition to providing research for the marketing department, the archive supports such groups as corporate communications, public affairs, strategic planning, law, media relations, policy and management development. The archive also is available to the outside public by appointment.

“A key function is to provide clients with business tools that enrich their grasp of the company’s traditions and character,” says company historian and archive manager John Harper. “By doing so, we help them flesh out a vision of the company that they then represent to other audiences.”

Harper and his staff confront a wide range of requests daily. Requests might involve research into a product’s lineage; site histories of company facilities – such as service stations, refineries, production platforms or marine terminals – in the context of specific environmental concerns; historical writings and photos of Chevron’s groundbreaking discoveries in the Middle East for an article in the online employee magazine, Line Rider; and background material for speeches, such as the keynote address “Energy: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow,” presented in March 2006 by Chevron Chairman and CEO Dave O’Reilly to the American Society of Corporate Executives.

In 2004, when Chevron celebrated its 125th anniversary, the search encompassed virtually every corner of the archive to support the production of a range of commemorative publications and other media for worldwide celebratory events. These included a special issue of the companywide magazine, CVX, that spanned the milestones and traditions of the collective history of Chevron’s many legacy companies; a richly illustrated history Web site; a brochure on the company’s historic role in the Bakersfield, Calif., area; and historic films tailored to the company’s global business units.

The archive also has been a key contributor of images and editorial research for several other publications, including Texaco’s 100th anniversary book, A Century of Energy; a 125th anniversary edition of Refining World; a brochure on the history of Chevron’s Olympic sponsorships, produced for distribution during the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games; Blue & Orange, the history of Gulf Oil in auto racing; and At All Costs: How a Crippled Ship and Two American Mariners Turned the Tide of World War II, a saga of the heroic role played by Texaco’s SS Ohio in a sea battle off Malta during World War II.

The archive faced one of its most challenging -- and geographically distant -- assignments in 2008 when Chevron New Zealand was preparing to move into its new Auckland headquarters. The new building provided an opportunity to showcase the almost 90-year legacy of Chevron’s affiliate Caltex in New Zealand through the creation of a “heritage space” that would instill pride among employees and promote a favorable impression of the Caltex brand among visitors.

Chevron New Zealand enlisted the archive’s help in researching and constructing an exhibit that best defined Caltex’s history. Harper visited three company offices and reviewed historical records, artifacts and memorabilia. In the process, he identified extraordinary and important items that had been tucked away in storage areas, desk drawers and cabinets. Through this exercise, the archive helped to safeguard Chevron’s history in New Zealand and present it to employees and visitors. The comprehensive exhibit included photographs, advertising materials, publications, gasoline cans from the 1930s, vintage service station signs and a ceremonial rugby ball. The material was arranged chronologically in a spacious, well-lighted, floor-to-ceiling glass display case.

As knowledge of the corporate archive has grown, so has the understanding and appreciation of its value. Staff in business units throughout the world take the initiative to contribute current material, thus sustaining the growth and relevance of the archive’s holdings.

Note:  Repository Profilies are provided by the organization.  The Business Archives Section will update as notified by the organization.  Accordingly, information may not be accurate.  Individuals should contact the organization before using or citing information.

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