Skip to main content

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.


Applied Food Studies students in the Archives - Summer 2019


  • Learn about the Archives as a resource in the library.
  • Select and transcribe at least 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.

DAY 1 Agenda

  1. Intro to the Archives
    How to handle menus
    How to visit the Archives
  2. Intro to Menu Collection
  1. Intro to transcribing
  1. Select a menu & transcribe that menu
    Follow the brief instructions and ask questions!

    If time remains, look at select menus in the Archives.

There will be time to work on your transcription in class on Thursday, if you need it.


DAY 2 Agenda

  1. Finish Transcribing; Review of transcribing exercise
  • 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?
  1. Intro to Archives webpages and digital menu collection
  2. Complete metadata worksheet
    • Record the information you KNOW from reading the menu
  1. 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

NOTE: 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  (or save to flash drive)


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: