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!

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”

 

We’re on the Air…and Cooking!

We certainly talk on the blog about how improvements in kitchen technology have changed the way food was (and continues to) prepared, stored, served, and shared. Today, we’re going to look at how another form of technology had an equally interesting effect on cooking and improving one’s culinary skills. Also, there will be talk of Jell-O (briefly, I promise, but not without good cause). Enter General Foods Cooking School of the Air. Which “air” and which technology, you may ask? Radio!

Before we go too far, though, I should point out that the General Foods Cooking School of the Air series should not to be confused with the Betty Crocker Cooking School of the Air (see the National Women’s History Museum post on Betty Crocker for more on the latter). Same concept, some overlapping years on the radio, but two different companies behind them. (Coincidental titles? I’ll leave that up to you!)

(The images below are all individually captioned, which I haven’t done in a while. To read the full captions, click on the first image to bring up a browse-able gallery!)

General Foods Cooking School of the Air was published for at least 2 years (and probably longer). It’s a set of companion pamphlets to the radio show of the same title, hosted by Frances Lee Barton. Holdings are limited in public/academic libraries, so we’re sure happy to add these to our collection. A little searching revealed five other libraries with some of the pamphlets, but it’s unclear if anyone is lucky enough to have a full run. And, from what I can see, no one has digitized them yet. Ours are on rings with a paper front and back cover, but they could also be ordered with a 3 ring binder for easy organization.

Even with only a limited number, you can get a sense of the range of topics Barton covered: breakfast, lunch, dinner, and desserts; holidays; formal and informal lunch and dinner parties; food service; jams, jellies, and butters; and more. Since we just acquired ours, they are about to go for cataloging–which means they aren’t quite available for use in the reading room, but I hope it won’t be long. In the meantime, as you know, we’ve got plenty of other culinary items for you to check out, if you’re thinking of paying us a visit. We’ll be here!

The Kellogg Family “Business,” Part I

Welcome to 2015! Many people out there may have New Years’ resolutions that are diet-related. That being said, this week’s feature may either inspire or frighten you. (Hopefully the former, but my apologies in advance if it’s the latter!)

In January 2013, we featured a two-part post about vegetarian cookbooks created by religious organizations. In both posts, there was mention of the work of John Harvey Kellogg, M.D (1852-1943). Dr. Kellogg is a fascinating man to read about and we have a number of publications from Battle Creek, Michigan, where he lived, preached, practiced, and taught a rather interesting lifestyle. In other words, January 2015 [Has it really been two years since January 2013 already? Time flies when you enjoy blogging!] is going to feature a multi-part series on another unique organization that touted the benefits of vegetarianism in the 19th and 20th century! But, before we get to the Kellogg-Kellogg feud, the Kellogg-inspired launch of Post Cereals, or Kellogg-Post feud, let’s start with Ella. Well, at least one of her works: Science in the Kitchen: A Scientific Treatise on Food Substances and Their Dietetic Properties, Together with a Practical Explanation of the Principles of Healthful Cookery, and a Large Number of Original, Palatable, and Wholesome Recipes (1898).

Science in the Kitchen, 1892

You can read a bit more about Ella Eaton Kellogg (1853-1920) on the Michigan Women’s Historical Center & Hall of Fame website. For now, you should know a few things: 1) she was an early founder of what we now consider the field of dietetics; 2) she founded a cooking school and a school of home economics; 3) she was a prolific book and article editor and author; 4) at various times, she led organizations focused on childcare, motherhood, dietetics, hygiene, and “social purity; 5) she helped raise more than 40 adopted children; and 6) oh, and she was married John Harvey Kellogg (they were married for 41 years from 1879 until her death in 1920). Ella was quite the culinary/domestic Renaissance woman!

Science in the Kitchen was first published in 1892 and was in its third edition by 1898 (it went through at least two more in 1904 and 1910). The book was inspired by all of her work, but the first edition was published not long after the school of home economics, the the cooking school, and the “School of Domestic Economy” were established in the late 1880s. All of these activities fed into her writing a manual for those who weren’t in Battle Creek, Michigan.

In short, Science in the Kitchen was Ella Eaton Kellogg’s guide to almost everything domestic. There are introductory sections on the purpose and properties of food, the digestive system, cooking techniques, and kitchen planning and management. The majority of the text focuses on types of foods and preparations: grains/cereals, breads, fruits, legumes, vegetables, soups, breakfast dishes, sauces, beverages (alcohol and mostly caffeine-free, of course!), dairy, eggs, meats, and even desserts. The fact that there is meat section, when the Kelloggs’ themselves were vegetarians, is a rather interesting side note. Like many domestic guides, it also features recipes for the old, young, and sick, tips for food preservation, meal planning, service, etiquette, and holiday dinners. One of the more unique sections is a chapter about clearing the table, washing dishes, table linens, caring for dishware/utensils, and how to deal with garbage (more specifically, how to deal with food garbage that will be fed to animals)!

If you’re curious, you can read and view this entire work online through VTech Works, the University Libraries institutional repository here: https://vtechworks.lib.vt.edu/handle/10919/10316. [To be honest, now that I’ve been skimming it, I hope I’ll have a chance to read some more of the full 565 pages myself!] From how to light a fire to school lunches, Mrs. Kellogg has something to say on just about everything and household need.

Next week (and perhaps for another week or two after that), we’ll look at more from the food, nutrition, and health focused Kelloggs. They and their publications have a lot more story to tell!


Bonus: Food History Podcast Recommendation

On a nutrition/diet-related note, I did want to share a wonderful podcast on the history of health, nutrition, and dieting in America from Backstory. It is a rebroadcast I first downloaded in late November (I don’t know the original date), but I was finally catching up on my podcasts before the holidays. You can listen to “Health Nuts” online at the Backstory website here. It runs about an hour, but you can pick and choose segments, too. If you only pick one or two, I recommend “Meatless Moralism” and “Cereal Dating.” The former has a fair bit in common with today’s feature item and the latter is just plain fun! [Backstory features three historians, each one focusing on a different century of American history (18th, 19th, and 20th). Each week, they take on a new topic, including other historians and experts in the conversation.]

Children’s Chores…in Song?

This week, I found something unique to share–The Kitchen Garden,: or, Object Lessons in Household Work including Songs, Plays, Exercises, and Games, Illustrating Household Occupations by Emily Huntington (1841-1909). It’s a book for children (mostly girls) designed to teach the proper steps for household chores. The book is broken down into six “lessons,” but it also includes additional songs and even a program for public performances of the songs and skits. Each lesson includes a recitation, at least one song, and illustrations.

 

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Emily Huntington authored a number of other titles like The Kitchen Garden, which is the only one of her works in our collection. If you look at the other titles, though, there was a clearly a theme to her books:

  • Kitchen-Garden System of Cookery
  • The Cooking Garden: A Systemized Course of Cooking for Pupils of All Ages, including Plan of Work, Bills of Fare, Songs, and Letters of Information
  • Children’s Kitchen-Garden Book
  • Children’s Kitchen-Garden Book, Adapted from the Original, with Additional Songs
  • How to Teach Kitchen Garden: or, Object Lessons in Household Work including Songs, Plays, Exercises, and Games, Illustrating Household Occupations

Although we certainly have books that are meant to teach lessons to children, this is probably the only one in our collection that does so in this particular way. It seems a good way to reach children. Of course, kids don’t do the same chores in the same way they did in 1890. I guess that must mean it’s time for some new songs!