WalletPop has an interesting summary of the origins of 12 famous firms and how they've evolved to new meanings and new products/brands. Some of these evolutions aren't exactly news (Abercrombie & Fitch's earliest merchandise mix featured outdoor gear) but some of the roads these brands followed over the years were out of the ordinary (Nokia was involved in wood and rubber at first--its foray into cell phones began more than a century after the firm's founding).
Having a legacy positioning might seem like something to overcome, but companies with a long and proud heritage--even in an industry far removed from their current core offerings--can often leverage tradition and spin the history to reinforce their emphasis on innovation and demonstrate their continuity of service and experience.
Nokia, for example, markets its past as "a century and a half of innovation." So the firm's message is: We're innovators.
John Deere, another company in the WalletPop listing, summarizes its history as reflecting its "core values of integrity, quality, commitment and innovation" (the I word again).
Companies such as Harley-Davidson (see photo above, from its Facebook page) are using museums to showcase their past accomplishments. On the other hand, when the economy was struggling, some firms made the economic decision to shut down their museums (Goodyear, for example, did this in 2009).