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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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”

 

Alcohol by Mail, Early 20th Century Style

Like a good blogger, I have a constant list of ideas in a file somewhere: culinary books, ephemera, or collections to write about some day. Today’s feature has been on my list, probably since the day we got it (or very nearly). I forgot about it for a while, then put it on the list some months ago. It seems as good a day as any to look at an item about mail order booze…

The image above is a c.1910s mail order price list from Lowenbach Bros. At the time we acquired the item, tempted as I was to lose hours on a single sheet of paper, I resisted. Which is to say, I didn’t go down the genealogy road and attempt to identify or locate one or more actual Lowenbach brothers who may have been connected to the business. So, you can imagine how excited I was to do a little digging this morning for the first time in 4+ years and discover someone else was very interested in this family and had written about it on a blog devoted to the pre-Prohibition whiskey industry. So, if you want to learn about the Lowenbach family, which included three generations, check out the post on “Those Pre-Pro Whiskey Men.” It’s worth noting that the referenced blog post points the origins of the business being even closer to Blacksburg than Alexandria–it was in Harrisonburg!

(Hmm, what? Where were we? I may have been a bit distracted by the discovery of that blog…)

Anyway, our collection consists of this single mail order flyer. If you’re a cocktail historian or fan, many or all of the brands listed may seem unfamiliar. While there are certain brands and distillery locations that have been around for the long haul (a version of Old Crow, for example, has been around since the 1830s, though it’s had many evolutions). There were also plenty of more short-lived ones, too. And, as we know, Prohibition took a lot of business out of the running–including the Lowenbach Bros. I suspect this price list dates to the early 1910s, as the company was shut down by the ban and didn’t reopen afterward (at least not under the same or a similar name). I also love that the flyer includes bottled cocktails in three kinds from three different companies. Bottled cocktails have been around since the early days and while some version of them has always been on the shelves, there was a distinct decline in the latter half of the 20th century. Interest in them is on the rise again, as well as in barrel-aged cocktails. I feel like the Lowenbachs would have been behind that trend, too. After all barrels have always been integral to distilling and transporting alcohol.

I digitized the item for the post and since the whole collection is this one item, I was able to add to our digital collection site. You can look at it in on the web here: https://digitalsc.lib.vt.edu/items/show/6946. You can also read the finding aid online for the collection, too (though it may be time to re-visit it and add a bit more).

Items like this may seem odd or out of place, but they can still give us some great insight into cocktail culture and alcohol history. We’re here all summer, if you need some cocktail (or culinary) inspiration or just want to dig through some fun ephemera. You never know what you might find!

#FoodFriday Links (#1)

I’m taking this week off from a feature blog post while I try to work on processing some culinary and cocktail-related collections and/or additions that I’ve been hoarding in my office. However, it is #FoodFriday, so I wanted to share something–like these links!

  • Back in January, we talked about The Gentleman’s Companion and a bit about the “Papa Doble” (aka the “Hemingway Daiquiri”). You can read that post here. Just this week, NPR featured an article about the man behind the Papa Doble, bartender Constantino Ribalaigua Vert. If you’re interested in learning about the “Cocktail King of Cuba,” I recommend the article, which you can read here.
  • In March, we acquired a collection of more than 2,000 pieces of culinary ephemera, mostly trade cards and postcards, but some other items and formats, too. It was all collected by one person, Dr. Alice Ross, and it’s a great collection to get lost in! I just put up a finding aid this morning.  I hope to revisit it and add more detail in the future, but for now, you can read about the collection in the finding aid.

Ephemeral Medicines (Patent and Practical)

Earlier this week, I got to spend a little quality time with the Culinary Ephemera Collection (Ms2013-028). There was a folder full of items waiting to be added. Items for this collection pile up a bit slower than for the Culinary Pamphlet Collection, so I don’t need to go back to it quite as frequently. But, despite some beliefs, many times, manuscript collections aren’t “done” when a finding aid is posted. They can become living entities that accrue new materials, require additional attention, or end up in need of corrections. Given the folder for items I had, in this case, it made sense to give the finding aid a little depth. If you’ve looked at it before, it was listed in series, but there wasn’t much detail in the contents list. This week, I was able to itemize some series and even given some historical background on a few of the more substantial and unique items. While I love all the items in the collection, I have talked about a couple of my absolute favorites before (Garfield Tea and the J. F. Lawrence Printing Company prospectus), this particular week, I was distracted by folder 14, which contains ephemera and items relating to “Medicines (Patent and Practical).”

First, a Latin lesson. I don’t know how good yours might be (mine’s there, but not nearly as strong as I would wish). “Non multum sed multa” is your classic “not quantity, but quality.”

The pages that follow are the history of and advertisement for “Kola-Cardinette,” a medicine made up of kola-acuminata (or, more modernly cola-acuminata aka the plant that produces kola nuts), cod liver oil, and cereal phosphates. The main effect of kola or kola nuts is caffeine. While I couldn’t discover exactly what cereal phosphates are or were, it does seem to have often been combined with kola to boost its effectiveness. The National Museum of American History, for example, has a bottle from a similar product, and you can find a number of digitized resources talking about other products. This particular Kola-Cardinette was the work of The Palisades Manufacturing Company in Yonkers, NY, and the pamphlet comes from about 1895!

ms2013_028_b1f14_eusoma

Another compound from about the same time, was this echinacia compound called “Eusoma.” The inside is a reprinted lecture given by Dr. C. S. Chamberlin in 1904, extolling the virtues of the product through a series of case studies, all of which used echinacea lotion and resulted in the healing of all sorts of skin issues and small cuts. Not a cure-all, but a cure-some? Other products are a little more targeted:

ms2013_028_b1f14_hollis

Thomas Hollis’ Bitters are specifically aimed at curing issues with certain parts of the body. They seem to have come in a powder form to be mixed with liquids, which isn’t the kind of bitters we might think of today (or even the kind of patent medicines!), but where else can you make a beer that will cure what ails you!

Last up is an ad on cardboard that was likely attached to packaging for cases of the products:

ms2013_028_b1f14_morse

Many patent medicines also came in pill form. While this item doesn’t tell us a whole lot, we have another item in Special Collections related to Dr. Morse: an almanac from 1908, full of advertisements, testimonials, and information about the year itself. The pills were touted as a “great blood purifier,” but in the context of the time, that meant a lot. Contaminants in the blood were believed to be the root of all illness, so something that could purify could, in theory, cure everything. Of course, we know that cure-alls were anything other than that, but plenty of people were on board with the theory.

Dr. Morse’s pills are among the more documented of 19th and 20th century patent medicines, thanks to a lot of research done on the family behind it, the Comstocks. The article is can tell the story better than I can, but it’s worth pointing out that some form of of these “Indian Root Pills” was available from the 1830s until the 1960s!

While we don’t recommend you go looking for a patent medicine to cure your ills today, if you’d like to learn more about them, we’re certainly happy to help. We have sponsored almanacs, pamphlets, and advertisements galore to give you insight into this lucrative and historically fascinating business.

Chickens, Cattle, and Cultivation

A while back, I hinted to the fact that we here at Special Collections were working on another collection of ephemera, constructed from  various purchases made and donations received since last year. I didn’t want to actually create a finding aid for the collection until I had at least a few items to go on, so I kept stock-piling pieces in my office. Last week, though, the Agricultural Ephemera Collection (Ms2015-053) became a reality! You can read the guide for the collection online. This collection came about for a couple of reasons. First, we were acquiring small pieces relating to aspects of farming, agriculture, livestock that weren’t necessarily connected to each other directly. Second, we are making a conscious effort to gather materials relating to food technology and production, which we’re thinking about as the agricultural, commercial, and scientific lives of foods and how these processes have evolved over time, and the system in which we as humans interact with those processes.

For now, this collection is organized around four main subject areas: agriculture, farming, livestock, and poultry & fowl. As we add new materials, these major topics may expand, or we may add new sub-topics to the existing ones. Below are examples from each, just to give you an idea of what we’re starting to collect for researchers and scholars!

First up, there’s color advertisement for Springfield Buckeye rakes. This is a small folded pamphlet (which is shown unfolded here) with both pictures and a short description of the products.

ms2015-053_rakea
Springfield Buckeye Rake advertisement (front)
ms2015-053_rakeb
Springfield Buckeye Rake advertisement (back)

Next, we have one page (of two) from a blank order sheet. Created by and representing the Pomona Hill Nurseries in Greensboro, NC, this was a way for farmers to order plants, trees, and other items.

ms2015-053_nursery
Blank order form for Pomona Hill Nurseries, Greensboro, NC

The Mason Produce Co.’s name may be a bit misleading, or at least limited–they sold a whole lot more than grocery goods (which are only a small part of what’s on this Thanksgiving flyer). They even sold bear, terrapin, and animal furs!

ms2015-053_poultry
Mason Produce Co. advertisement and price list for poultry and poultry products, game, and more (1911)!

Last up is a piece with a local collection: a small cardboard advertisement for Dickinson Dairy Feed. The product itself came from elsewhere, but this particular advertising card promotes a place in Marion that sold it.

ms2015-053_cattle
Dickinson Dairy Feed advertisement from Marion, Virginia

Right now, the collection is small, but like some of our other ephemera-full collections, I expect it will grow quickly! At any rate, you’re always welcome to visit and see what we have relating to agriculture, culinary history, and food culture!