Processing the Educational Cookery Collection, Part 3

As promised, this week we’re at the end of processing the Educational Cookery Collection (yay)! And, I remembered to take pictures while I was working on the collection this week, so there are plenty of visuals below!

After all that alphabetical sorting last week, I ended up with a stack of 16 folders that look, well, like this:

Each folder has the collection number and title on the left side, the folder title in the center, and the box-folder number on the right side. Given the final decision to sort the collection by creator name, there are 15 folders for letters of the alphabet and one for materials without clear creators. They sat in a stack on my desk as I worked through creating bibliographies for each folder, at which point I was shifting in their new home–an acid-free box:

In the end, they don’t take up the whole box, but that’s okay. I used the lid as a temporary spacer to keep folders from slumping or falling over, which can damage the contents over time (that’s also why, in the picture above, I turned the box on its side as I started added the first few folders to it). Before I put the box on the shelf, I made a more permanent spacer from some left over cardboard. (We keep many different kinds of scraps around here that come in handy for reuse: cardboard, old boxes, mylar, matboard…Plenty of archivists like to reuse and creatively “upcycle” where they can!) Also, this means we have space to add more items later!

The other part of processing, of course, is the intellectual description and processing. We use software called ArchivesSpace, which lets us keep track of new accessions, digital objects (scans), subjects, and creators, and helps us create the finding aids we put in Virginia Heritage. If you’re curious what it looks like, this is a screenshot with the list of folders for this collection. The navigation links in the lower left help us jump around the rest of the record below, since more complex collections can have a lot of content.

As I finished writing up the notes in the collection, I also grabbed a screenshot of those. The software consolidates sections with a lot of content (like the Subjects, in this case) and when you are viewing a section (like the Notes), shows you shortened versions, which you can expand and edit. I promise, it can save a fair bit of scrolling if you’re trying to get a specific section. The sidebar on the left shows you, at a glance, connections between this and other records or how many elements there are in a given section. In this collection, for example, there’s a link between this and one existing accession record, a single “date” component, and 9 notes.

Looking at that screenshot reminded me I missed something. That left side navigation can also help with that. If you’re expecting a number next to a part of the record and it’s not there, it’s a good reminder you might need to fix that! Anyway, this resource record, as it’s called, is what we can export from ArchivesSpace, tweak a little bit, and put into Virginia Heritage for researchers everywhere to discover. I finished up the finding aid on Thursday morning, along with my final checklist of items for collections. (Seriously, I have a spreadsheet checklist for collections I process–it helps me keep track of what gets processed, as well as all the little administrative and practical steps that going along with making it discoverable!)

As I mentioned last week, every collection is a little different and I wouldn’t be surprised if we talk about processing again in the future. I hope it gives some insight into what goes on behind-the-scenes so researchers can find our materials to use. And a little bit about what those of us who work behind-the-scenes do! The finding aid for the Educational Cookery Collection (Ms2017-032) is now available online and the collection is in its home on the shelf:

So, we encourage you to come by and take a look when you have a chance! I expect this collection will grow in the future (much like some of our ephemera-based collections), and I’m looking forward to finding out what we add next!

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Upcoming Local/Regional Events

Just a quick announcement about some upcoming events, fresh from my email box to yours!

Tuesday, October 244-5:15 p.m.

“Clean Plate Club​: Combating Food Waste in America” by Susan Chen

Multipurpose Room, Virginia Tech Library (first floor)

Free and open to the public.

Up to 40 percent of all edible food is wasted in the United States. Food waste has recently gained traction in social media, and within the last couple years, many initiatives have been created to combat this extensive problem. Join us as we explore the past and present issues around food waste and explore solutions to prevent this in the future.

Susan Chen is currently a graduate student in the Department of Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise and is researching food waste behaviors in children. Susan has held an internship at the U.S. Department of Agriculture where she worked on projects related to nutrition and economic analysis. She ​was the recipient of the 2017 ​Janet L. Cameron Scholarship. 


Saturday, November 181-2 p.m.

“What Happens to your Leftovers? Food facts and food fun!” by Susan Chen

Blacksburg Library Community Room. Free and open to the public. Children are encouraged to attend.

So, what’s the big deal about throwing some leftovers into the trash? It can’t be that bad, right? But if everyone throws away their leftovers, that would surely create a giant mess! Come join us as we play fun food games to learn about where your leftovers go!


Friday, April 6, 11: 30 a.m.
Memorial lecture and luncheon in honor of Jean Robbins featuring Ronni Lundy, author of Victuals: An Appalachian Journey, with Recipes.

Roanoke Country Club.  

Winner of the James Beard Foundation Book of the Year Award and Best Book, American Cooking, Victuals is an exploration of the foodways, people, and places of Appalachia.

Born in Corbin, Kentucky, Ronni Lundy has long chronicled the people of the hillbilly diaspora as a journalist and cookbook author. She is the former restaurant reviewer and music critic for The Courier-Journal in Louisville, former editor of Louisville Magazine, and has contributed to many national magazines. Her book Shuck Beans, Stack Cakes and Honest Fried Chicken was recognized by Gourmet magazine as one of six essential books on Southern cooking. In 2009, Lundy received the Southern Foodways Alliance Craig Claiborne Lifetime Achievement Award. She has contributed to Eating WellGourmetBon AppétitEsquire, and other magazines.

Processing the Educational Cookery Collection, Part 2

I know I missed a week, but I didn’t get to work on the Education Cookery Collection too much last week. My major work on it during the last two weeks was making sure all the books were on the inventory, getting cataloging slips into all those items, and finding space for them on a cart temporarily. There are 80+ publications to be cataloged. Here’s one shelf’s worth (of about 1 1/2 shelves):

In addition,  I worked on creating a list of publications in the record for the soon-to-be manuscript collection. Since it’s not done, it’s not public yet, but here’s what part of the list looks like for me (it’ll be much nicer-looking in the finished finding aid!):


Next up, there’s a stack of manuscript materials. At the moment, those items are organized into four folders, which match up to my thought process when I started looking at them, but in reality, don’t represent the final arrangement.

Folders: the archivist’s best organizational friend!

I wanted to look at what items in this collection align with/are similar to ephemeral items in other culinary collections. So, my post-it notes read things like “Adds to Ms2012-040” [the State/Regional Home and Agricultural Publications] or “Acc2017-083 Make into new collection?” The more I’ve considered it, though, I’m not going to break up the collection into three existing ones, plus one new one. The fact of the matter is, we usually organize collections by creator or collector, and this is one combined group of materials relating to aspects of educational cookery. It should stay together.

Sometimes, figuring out how to organize a collection is a case of “two steps forward, one step back.” I thought I knew what would make sense for this collection, but I then I started to waffle. I’ll have to back up a little bit, undo a few things, and move forward again. Rather than taking some items out and arranging what’s left, this collection now has a couple of possibilities: breaking out materials based on the type of creator (an individual, a cooking school, a corporation, a state or national government agency), thinking about them in terms of formats (corporate pamphlets, government publications, advertisements/trade items, cooking school catalogs, printed notes and information sheets, recipes, etc.), or sorting them by subject area (nutrition education, cooking instruction, fundraising, etc.). I went around and around a bit, confused myself, then I did the smart thing: I got a colleague’s opinion and he helped me get out of the weeds (thanks, John!). We looked at what we had, what we thought we could see happening with the collection in the future, and agreed that the simplest option was to rely on the alphabet and arrange materials in folders by creator name. (Asking a friend is always good advice and colleagues make great sounding boards!)

Alphabetical sorting–an invaluable, if boring, skill for archivists!

Anyway, I think I’ll finish up this post for this week and get back to my sorting. I expect to wrap up this series next week, when I get the materials foldered, boxed, and a finding aid completed to share. Hopefully this series is providing some insight into how things can work around here (and not just my sometimes-convoluted process). One of our favorite sayings in the archives field is “it depends” and for me, it’s something I say all the time when processing manuscripts. Every collection is a different and each one requires different attention. This is turning out to be a prime example!

Processing the Educational Cookery Collection, Part 1

Over the last few years, we’ve talked about and around the idea of education when it comes to cookery. We’ve profiled women who started, trained, and/or taught at cookery schools; talked about the more community-based networks and community-learned skills; and shared PLENTY of recipes and advice for household management. We received a collection this week that brings all of that together and while it’s still in the early stages of processing, there’s also plenty to share. (I’m thinking we might follow this collection over the next week or two as it gets ready for the public use.)

Regrettably, the the idea to follow the collection hit me after I unpacked the boxes and started sorting, so no photos for the early stages. Suffice to say, we received 4 nicely packed boxes of books, pamphlets, and ephemera in binders. Over the last two days, I’ve taken the boxes apart and sorted materials. There are items to be cataloged, some manuscript materials that could be added to existing collections, and some manuscript materials that are going to result in a new manuscript collection. I’m contemplating the options, but I suspect the latter two kinds of items will be combined into a new “educational cookery” manuscript collection of some sort.

Anyway, here’s how things look now:

(I was trying to keep a little table space in my office open!)
(So, I *may* have stacked a few things upside down…)

The stacks of books will need cataloging slips and will go to the library’s Collections and Technical Services Department, then return to our shelves. These items will all have a note in their catalog records indicating they are associated with the soon-to-be-created manuscript collection. What kind of books? There are textbooks for public and normal schools, as well as textbooks from well-known cooking schools like the Boston School of Cookery, Miss Farmer’s School of Cookery, and the British National Training School of Cookery. In addition, there are community cookbooks to benefit educational institutions, study books and career guides for home economics, and what we might call “DIY” study or instruction for profit or for personal use (candy-making, running tea rooms, cake decorating, etc.). These materials fit in well with our existing holdings and will result in us gaining new publications by authors we’ve talked about before like Maria Parloa, Mrs. D. A. Lincoln, and Fannie Farmer.

There are MANY pieces of ephemera which we can look at in future posts. But for now, here are a few examples of some lecture announcements, basic cookery lessons, and and course catalogs from cooking schools.


By next week, I hope to have the books all organized and on a cart. And in the meantime, I’ll be working on some ideas for organizing the ephemera and manuscript items. Stay tuned for more pictures, a bit about how we figure out organizational structures for collections, and an update on progress so far in next week’s post!


On a side note, we also recently acquired a collection of materials relating to military and wartime cookery (which I am equally excited about!). Part of that, along with other items in Special Collections, formed the basis of our current exhibit. If you’re in Blacksburg, feel free to drop by in the next month or so and check out “Substitution, Self-Sufficiency, and Sharing: America’s World War I Food Policies and Practices.”

Photo of center display case from “Substitution, Self-Sufficiency, and Sharing: America’s World War I Food Policies and Practices”

 

Serial Domestication: Mrs. Winslow’s Domestic Receipt Book

Note: I scheduled this post to go out on September 1, but discovered this morning that never happened! So, here is it is (and apologies for the gap in posts)!


Among the history of food and drink materials, you’ll find quite a bit to say on the intertwined topics of cookery, household management, and domestic economy (later what we would call “home economics”). On the surface, that’s what Mrs. Winslow’s Domestic Receipt Book sounds like. It was a small serial publication that began in 1860 and ran until at least 1878 or so. Here in Special Collections, we have three different years: 1868, 1875, and 1877. This week, we’re looking at the volume from 1868.

It does, in fact, contain a lot of recipes for food and a short miscellany of household recipes and cleaners. And I love that the cover also states, “This book will be issued annually, with entirely new Receipts. By preserving them, and sewing them together, you will have in a few years the best collection of Receipts in the country.” It’s like an art project to build your own cookbook. It’s true if you compare editions, there are different receipts in them. But there’s something else going on in Mrs. Winslow’s Domestic Receipt Book, too.

ADVERTISING! It shouldn’t be surprising–we’ve seen that again and again in the collection–but it did sneak up on me in this case. As it turns out, Mrs. Winslow was a name used to sell a patent medicine (“Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup”), and was tangentially attached to two other products, produced by the same companies. There are small testimonials tucked in between recipes, as well as some full page ads for the three featured products.

It’s worth noting that Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup was available starting in 1845, some 15 years before the receipt book first appeared in publication, and it was sold well into the 20th century. There’s a short history of it online (and yes, there was an actual Mrs. Winslow!). 1868 was still decades from the Pure Food and Drug Act in 1906 that would require labeling on medicines, so consumers weren’t likely to know that the main ingredients in the bottle were alcohol and some form of opioid (usually morphine). It certainly would help calm a child’s teething–and knock them out in the process.

The serial comes out of Boston, but the recipes included are fairly generic. They feature ingredients that would have been available east of the Mississippi, at least, and you’ll find corn breads, pies, pickled items galore, “a Ham better than a Westphalia,” and some uses for some less attractive cuts of meat. The recipe for “Pine-Apple Marmalade” stuck out, since pineapples weren’t really common yet and pineapple recipes in cookbooks remained a rarity through the end of the 19th century. They were hard to acquire and therefore, expensive. (And yes, I’ve stumbled down a rabbit hole of pineapple history I need to explore further!) Pineapples aside, it’s a collection of approachable and fairly basic recipes, which is good, since, like most cookbooks of the the time, they don’t include much in the way of directions.

It may seem we’ve gone a bit far a-field in this post (from patent medicines to pineapples), but it serves as a good reminder that cookery-related resources are rarely as straight-forward as we may expect or want them to be. Rather, they have a great deal to tell us about ingredients, techniques, and times–and they are well-worth a look.

Saving, Sharing, and Propaganda: Advice for Children from the U. S. Food Administration

Just this week, I finished working my way through a new collection of materials we received relating to military and wartime food and cookery. The majority of the collection is published items that will be cataloged, but it also included a selection of ephemera in the form of menus, corporate sponsored pamphlets, two handwritten recipes, two ration books, and a rather interesting photograph album of the Yokota Air Base Commissary from the 1960s. On the whole, materials in the collection date from the 1880s (Civil War reunion event menus) to the 1960s. The published items date from the 1890s to the 1990s. The manuscript materials are primarily World War II-era, but I’ve been thinking about World War I lately. There have been a number of projects and efforts on campus to document VPI involvement in WWI (and some more to come), which led me to WWI food and cookery. Either later this fall or sometime next year, I’m already concocting ideas for a small WWI-food themed exhibit in our display cases.

In the meantime: Food Saving and Sharing: Telling How the Older Children of America May Help Save from Famine Their Comrades in Allied Lands Across the Sea,  prepared under the direction of the United States Food Administration in coöperation with the United States Department of Agriculture and the Bureau of Education, published in 1918.

This book was basically the result of a call for the United States Food Administration (USFA, so I don’t have to type that every time!) to create book for public school use “which will promote the program of food conservation.” Food Saving and Sharing is sometimes referred to as a text book and it certainly has the education element to it. In addition, it includes, photographs, illustrations, and a fair number of little rhymes and sayings to reinforce its ideas.

Shortly after the title page, there’s a brief introduction from Herbert Hoover:

To the Girls and Boys of America:

Now that the terrible war is over, you must be glad that you helped to win it by saving food for our soldiers and our unhappy friends across the sea. But our work of feeding hungry people is not to be greater than it has ever been…To save the world from famine will be a greater task than any of us can imagine, but we can do it if each of us does all he can. I am counting on you…

Later, in World War II, we will see the theme and motto of “Victory!” It was used as a motivation for home gardens, increased self-sufficiency, rationing, and a variety of other food and domestic practices. While World War I didn’t have so clean or simple a motto, this book is a great example of the kind of propaganda (a word that shouldn’t necessarily have a negative context here) that was common during this time, especially from government agencies like the USFA. About two-thirds of the book is spent educating readers on food and nutrition. The last third is about efforts during the war, why they need to continue, and what else young people can do to help. There are a couple of pages on the Garden City movement and the School Garden Army (both of which I’ve come across recently and need to read up on!), organizations designed to promote involvement by school-age children in war efforts and to give them a way to affect change.

Cornell’s Albert R. Mann Library has a nice short overview of the Food Administration that includes the following:

“Food Will Win the War” became the slogan and the Food Administration’s widely disseminated posters, articles, workshops and educational material resulted in a 15% reduction in domestic food consumption without rationing. This meant that in a 12-month period of 1918-1919, this country furnished 18,500,000 tons of food to the Allies.

I can certainly see the appeal of such a book at the end of 1918 and we know that the U.S. did continue its efforts well into 1919 to great success. Efforts like those of the USFA would also be extremely influential in another twenty years when World War II began.

The full version of this book is available online.

I know I didn’t actually talk about or feature the new Military & Wartime Cookery Collection (Ms2017-029), but we will come back to it. For now, you can see the finding aid online (the guide includes a list of the related publications).