Upcoming Event: October 4, 2018

Hello tomato fans and food history lovers! Just a quick note about an upcoming event in the library on Thursday, October 4, 2018. It’s a talk on the vast and global history of tomato, along with a tasting of some various tomato-based foods. In addition, Special Collections will feature a small exhibit of tomato-related materials from our collections, which should be in place by Tuesday, October 2nd. So, if you’re going to attend the event on the 4th, be sure to swing by Special Collections before or after and check it out (plus, I’ll post some pictures here next week)!

What: Tomato Pathways: From the Andes to the Apennines to Appalachia: Following the Agriculture Value Chain

When: Thursday, October 4, 2018 from 5-6pm

Where: Multipurpose Room, 1st floor Newman

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Virginia Spirits Month (2018)

September is Virginia Spirits Month! (No, really, I’m not kidding, you can read about it online.) In honor of that, I thought I’d share a slideshow of some favorite spirituous images from our cocktail history materials. This is something I have as a background display for events and it highlights a lot of fun items (and some fun history!) about cocktails and their ingredients.

Cocktail Slideshow 2017

(the link will open a pdf of the slideshow to view or download)

And for all you Virgos out there, here’s a c.1980s French postcard with a festive cocktail on it!


This is part of series with one postcard for each astrological sign. They all seem a bit…overly garnished? One includes an entire walnut! This one includes lemon, a flower, and seeming an entire tree twig? And since Libra is just around the corner:

Figs and pears, anyone? (Actually, this rather reminds me of some of Jerry Thomas’ ornately garnished drinks of the 1860s…)

Surprisingly (or perhaps not so), cocktails have been tied to zodiac signs and astrology for quite some time. In the 1960s and 1970s, Southern Comfort produced several small cocktail recipe pamphlets that ran along that theme. And we even have a 1940 book called Zodiac Cocktails; Cocktails for All Birthdays. It includes recipes and the names of famous people born under the same signs! (That’s my sneak preview of it, since I hope to give it a post of its own one day soon–stay tuned!)

In the meantime, continue to enjoy Virginia Spirits Month. Try something new or sip on an old favorite. After all, it’s 5 o’clock somewhere.

More News–and War Food News!

So, this summer has clearly gotten away from me. Due to impending space limitations, I was working on moving the blog to a new site, hosted by the library. That came with some delays and the new blog isn’t ready to go yet. Then, as I mentioned in June, we moved to some new systems in May. As usual, things got done, but not the things I intended. Then suddenly, it was the first week of class. As a matter of fact, I just taught my first session of the semester to a food history class! Which then reminded me I need to get back to blogging (it’s also my week to post on Special Collections’ other blog!). There’s still space for more pictures here, though, and I’ll be doing my best to get back into routine while I sort out other details for the new blog site in the background. So, a couple more updates and then a new item to share!

First: We have a new website! Our address is still https://spec.lib.vt.edu/, but you may notice an updated look. We are still working on many parts of the site and expect to be migrating some content for a while yet–either to the site or other tools we have in Special Collections. We appreciate your patience while we do so–it may mean some things are a little harder to find, but it will be worth it in the end! In the interim, if you’re looking for something, contact us and ask! We’re here to help.

Second: Colleagues are trying to plant dangerous ideas in my mind and I may be exploring a new medium to talk about one or two aspects of food history in the near future. Stay tuned for more on that.

Third: There’s going to a Peacock Harper Culinary History Friends Committee event here at Newman Library in October. More information will be forthcoming, but for now, consider marking your calendars for Friday, October 4th, at 5pm, especially if you like tomatoes!

Okay, on to new stuff!

Ta-da! Earlier this summer, we purchased this poster (close ups coming). It’s a World War I baker recruitment poster, c.1917:

Wanted! 500 Bakers for the U. S. Army (also 100 cooks) If you can bake bread Uncle Same wants you–if you can’t bake bread, Uncle Sam will teach you how in a Government School. A bakery company consists of 61 men so that you and your “pals” can join the same unit and bake and break bread together. Enlist for the war-bakers pay $33 to $45 per month Ages 18 to 45 Cooks pay $36 per month with clothing, food, quarters and medical attention.

We haven’t done a lot of research into this item just yet, but I love the visuals of it and wanted to share. We had a World War I and food exhibit up in the spring and this seems a good continuation of that theme. (And I was just talking about food and wartime in the class session earlier!)

Mail Call! (Some New Items!)

If you’ve ever wondered what “mail call” looks like around here, it can be all over the place! After so many years, I have come the conclusion that acquisitions work is really a master juggling act. There are items you think are coming to your door, items you know are, items you have that are waiting for your attention, and plenty of surprises! Yesterday, I got one of last category: an envelope stuff with one of my favorite things–pamphlets!

Collection of culinary pamphlets in a pile on a wood table
Collection of culinary pamphlets

This is the pile fresh from the envelope. I spread it all out on the table…

Culinary pamphlets spread out on a wood table
Culinary pamphlets

…and of course, my eyes lit up as I found some of my favorite topics: cocktails, gelatin, and Betty Crocker:

"Betty Crockers Continental Casseroles" pamphlet
“Betty Crockers Continental Casseroles” pamphlet
"Chalmers Granulated Gelatine" pamphlet
“Chalmers Granulated Gelatine” pamphlet–with a few friendly nibble marks on the corner!

Of course, in the south, you can’t look far without finding something about barbecue!

"Barbecue" trifold pamphlet
“Barbecue” trifold pamphlet

There are a lot of treasures in this package and I’m still sorting through. Some items will go in our Culinary Pamphlet Collection (Ms2011-002) and some will go for cataloging and be added to our book collection.

One other item that stood out is this pamphlet of “cookmarks.” The pages are perforated, and each one has two bookmarks with space to indicate the book, page number, and notes about the recipe!

"Cookmarks" pamphlet with individual cookbook bookmarks
“Cookmarks” pamphlet with individual cookbook bookmarks

As you can see, they even have quotes and illustrations!

One of the best part of being an acquisitions and processing archivist is that even when you think you know what materials you’re getting for the collections, you don’t! Surprises can show up on your doorstep and make your day!

Pears and Cherries from the Stark World's Fair Fruit Catalog, 1903

What’s New at the Library and How it Relates to Food History (or, why there haven’t been many posts lately)!

Many apologies for the lack of posts lately, but life in the library has been hectic. While not meant to be excuses, there are reasons your archivist/blogger Kira has been otherwise occupied. Since they related to food history in at least a few ways, it seems like this week is a good week to talk about some recent activities and changes! Summer is that time of year when I always think I’m going to tackle a bunch of projects–then a million other things come along, asking for my attention.

Events

  • Last month, the library was closed for one day while we had our biennial staff day. The last few times, I have done food-related programs and this year was no exception! I talked about some of my favorite hot-spots (pun intended!) in the history of baking in America. Then, armed with 6 dozen cookies (sugar and gluten-free, dairy-free sugar), 5 cups of homemade buttercream (vanilla, chocolate, and vegan vanilla), and a bunch of edible decorations, attendees let loose customizing their own frostings and decorating cookies. I’m working on a place to share presentation about the history of food & drink materials on the LibGuide (more on that below), so it will hopefully be online soon.
  • Next week, I have a historic cocktail tasting and talk on the docket, so I’ve been putting together notes, menus, and more. I’m really looking forward to talking about the History of the American Cocktail Collection itself, as well as how it’s being used by researchers, with a new audience!

Searching Materials

The biggest changes lately have to do with how you can search for and discover materials in Special Collections and the University Libraries generally. In May, we got a new catalog and a new discovery search tool. If you’ve been on the library website, you’ve probably noticed some changes and may wonder how this affects you. (I’ve definitely been spending part of my time finding problems and trying to help solve them!)

  • Our new catalog is here: https://catalog.lib.vt.edu/. The catalog contains information on the physical collections held by the University Libraries at Virginia Tech (including Special Collections). Library staff are still working on some issues, so if you have trouble locating materials or need help using the new catalog, we encourage you to contact us and we’re happy to learn while we help you! (Here in Special Collections, we are still adjusting our workflows accordingly and learning as we go.)
  • Our new discovery tool is located here, right on the library’s front page: https://lib.vt.edu/. The discovery tool includes physical (items in the catalog) and electronic resources (e-books, databases, articles, and the like). Special Collections materials are in here, but it works a little differently from the catalog and some items are a little more hidden than others. Again, please reach out to us if you have trouble and we’ll help!
    • We hope that we will also be able to include our finding aids AND records for digitized collection content in this system in the near future. We are in the first stages of looking at making that happen, so stay tuned!
  • As you may know, I’ve created several resource guides for researching aspects of our history of food & drink collecting area. As of this week, there is a quick and easy way for researchers to find any and all guides related to Special Collections materials! “Special Collections” is now its own group on the list of guides. You can go to the group list and click on “Special Collections” to see our guides OR you can jump right to the alphabetical list of guides.
  • In light of the new catalog and discovery system, I’ve been updating links in the food-related resource guides (as well as some others I’ve developed), so they should be working correctly. Since you can’t search the new catalog the way you could the previous one, I have removed old directions, updated some text, and once we have some more things figured out, will go back and add some more detailed text about searching to those guides!
  • Also, I’ve been working on a new set of pages on the Food & Drink History Resource Guide. There is now an FAQ about the collecting area for some questions we get most often. And there’s a tab called “Sources for Selected Topics” that contains some content. Click on the arrow next to “Sources for Selected Topics” to see the list and jump to a page. There are a few more topical pages in draft mode that will get done one of these days…

What’s Coming Soon?

As if all that wasn’t enough, there’s still more! There are several projects in progress in Special Collections–basically, some things to look forward to in the coming months.

  • Our staff is working on a new and updated website. It will be a little more streamlined and you’ll probably also see some new resource guides, as we move some information around. But don’t worry, I’ll have a new post about the site when it goes live!
  • After over 6 years on a hosted WordPress site, “What’s Cookin’ @Special Collections?!” is starting to run out of space for content! (Side note: our blog will have it’s 7th anniversary this fall!) While it’s a problem I’m VERY glad to have, it also means we need a new place for our blog. Behind the scenes, I have been working with our IT Services department to move to a blog that is hosted on the library’s website. Good news: No concerns about space limitations! Bad news: There was a hitch or two (fixed!) and now it’s taking me a bit of time to update links and develop a new look and feel. I’m hoping to have it done later this month. When it’s ready for prime time, I’ll have a post here to redirect people to where new content will be posted. This site will remain, so you’ll still be able to find/read old posts, I just won’t be adding new ones.
  • Over the last 9+ years, I’ve done a fair number of presentations about the food & drink history materials. Some of them are posted in different places, but I’m hoping to be able to collect them together on the Food & Drink History Resource Guide to share. It’s definitely on my project list and we’ll see how it goes!

So, a long text post this week, but there was a lot to tell! But, to finish up, here are a couple of pages from one of my favorite publications in the collection, just because!

Pears and Cherries from the Stark World's Fair Fruit Catalog, 1903
Pears and Cherries

Berries from the Stark World's Fair Fruit Catalog, 1903Berries

Special Collections is opening LATE on Friday, May 10, 2018

Due to Commencement exercises on campus, Special Collections (along with the University Libraries) will be opening LATE on Friday, May, 10, 2018. We will open at 10am and close at our normal time (5pm). We will be CLOSED for a staff event on Monday, May 14, 2018, and we will resume our normal hours on Tuesday, May 15, 2018.

Special Collections will be CLOSED on Monday, May 14, 2018

Just a quick announcement: Special Collections (along with the rest of the University Libraries) will be closed on Monday, May 14, 2018! Special Collections will reopen at our normal time (8am) on Tuesday, May 15, 2018, and we’ll resume our normal hours (M-F from 8am-5pm).

Also, an apology for the lack of posts lately, but we’re working on some things for the blog behind the scenes and it’s taking a little longer than planned. Hopefully after the end of the semester is behind us, we’ll be back on track!