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Archives and Special Collections

Information about The Culinary Institute of America's Archives and Special Collections housed in the Conrad N. Hilton Library, Hyde Park, New York.

Catalog your menu


Applied Food Studies class in the Archives -

DAY 1 - February 4, 2020


  • Learn about the Archives as a resource in the library.
  • Select and transcribe at one historical menu.
  • Make observations of the menu as primary source, reflect on assumptions made, and pose questions about the menu.
  • Recognize that the creation of historical knowledge is interpretive.


  1. Welcome to the Archives
    • Contact the Archives and make an appointment
    • Find the Archives webpages
    • Find the Digital Menu Collection
  2.  Intro to the Menu Collection
    • How to handle the menus
    • Menu donations
    • Look at few “special” menus
  1. Brief Intro to transcribing (see instructions below)
  2. Select a menu & transcribe that menu
    • Email Nicole your text files before you leave class
    • There will be additional time to work on the transcription in class on Friday if you do not finish today.


"Consider now the menu: it spins, perhaps, but it does not sow. It simply lies there or, rather, allows itself to be propped up while, like a politician or a winning child, it promises big, and then delivers what it delivers. Yet the menu remains, even after its restaurant has faded, a lovely paper monument to hope, the permeable membrane between the diner's dreams and the market's prices."

--Gopnik, Adam. "A LA CARTE." The New Yorker, vol. 78, no. 36, Nov 25, 2002, pp. 082-83, Research Library


Here are some questions to think about as you transcribe:

  • What did you notice from doing the transcription that you might not have otherwise noticed just by glancing over it?
  • What do you know about the restaurant, the location, the time period, the illustrations, the clientele, etc. from the menu?
  • What questions do you have about the menu?  What would you like to investigate further?


DAY 2 - February 6, 2020

  1. Continue transcribing.
  2. Intro to Archives webpages. Intro to digital menu collection
  3. Explore archives collections, including items from the menu collection, rare book collection, pamphlet collection, Craig Claiborne collection, and more!

Transcribing Instructions

Digital Menus Collection

There are three parts to a digital menu – 1) the scans of each page; 2) the transcriptions of each scan; and 3) the metadata (i.e. information ABOUT the menu) to provide access to the menu.


Today you will be TRANSCRIBING.

Not only will you be providing one portion of the digital menu, but you will also practice the experience of READING a primary source.

  • The process of transcribing is akin to doing a close reading of a primary source.
  • Think about what you notice, what you can tell about the restaurant, the time period, the location, etc. from the menu itself. 
  • What did you learn from reading it closely that you wouldn’t have noticed just by glancing at it?
  • I strongly encourage you not to research it today. Instead, learn from the menu itself.


What is transcribing?

Transcribing is recording exactly what is written (no translating or interpreting…) for the purpose of keyword searching the text of the menu in a digital collection.

How To Create a Transcription for the menu you chose:

Start button - Programs - Accessories - Notepad

Create a new text file for every page of the menu.


  • Enter every word, in relatively the same order
  • Formatting does not need to be exact, however a sense of similar order should be maintained
  • Try to use breaks to match the menu
  • No accent marks; no special characters  [any symbol on your keyboard is ok to use]
  • Use punctuation marks, capital letters, etc. as is on the menu
  • Keep prices (no need to keep the ellipses, though…)
  • Retain original spelling. (Spell exactly as written on the menu, even if it is wrong, even if the word is now commonly spelled differently.)
  • Also transcribe any handwritten notes (some will be illegible….do the best you can)


  • See below for how to name the files
  • Save to DESKTOP
  • **When finished, email txt files to Nicole


File names:

menu_[insert menu number found on back of menu]_001     For page 1


menu_27-99_001        use for page 1
menu_27-99_002        use for Page 2
menu_27-99_003        use for Page 3
menu_27-99_x01        use for Attachment 1
menu_27-99_x02        use for Attachment 2


The Culinary Institute of America | Conrad N. Hilton Library | 1946 Campus Drive | Hyde Park, NY 12538-1430
Telephone: 845-451-1747 | Email: