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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.

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



Applied Food Studies visit to the Archives


  • Learn about the Archives as a resource in the library.
  • Explore and examine a selection of menus from the collection. 
  • 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
  2. Introduction to the menu collection
    • Explore some of the highlights of the CIA Menu Collection
    • Choose a menu to transcribe from the selection provided
  3. Transcribing

    • 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 from the menu itself. 
      What do learn from reading it closely that you wouldn’t have noticed just by glancing at it?
      I strongly encourage you not to google it today. Instead, learn from the menu first hand.


    • Email txt files to Nicole before leaving for the day.  I will save them so you can continue on Day 2.

  4. Reflection

    • What did you notice from doing the transcription that you might not have otherwise noticed just by glancing over it?

      From your observation of the menu, what do you know about the restaurant, the location, the time period, the illustrations, the clientele, etc.?

      These menus existed in a particular time and place.  As you transcribed, what assumptions did you catch yourself making about the menu?

    • What questions do you have about the menu?  What would you like to investigate further?

Archives' Objectives

1. Support the educational needs of the CIA faculty and CIA students in the various degree programs.
2. Create an environment for student engagement with primary sources and archival materials.
3. Encourage experiential, active learning through hands-on interaction with historical materials.

Access + Security/Preservation

Providing access to users

  • Use in reading room
  • Handle materials with care
  • Allow taking notes and photos

Keep materials safe and secure

  • Use only in reading room
  • Careful handling
  • Pencils only

Menu Collection

"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

What do you think about this quote?
What can we learn from menus?  What is the historical value of menus?
What don't we know just by looking at a menu? (i.e. What is missing?)

CIA Menu Collection Highlights

Oldest Menu: Clifton House, Niagara Falls, Canada, 1855

Signed by Escoffier: Carlton Hotel, London, 1909

Explore Menus by Date

Explore Menus by U.S. State

Explore Menus by Country

****Hints to searching the digital menu collection (video coming soon!)****


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