For anyone able to safely travel in December or January, several museums have special exhibitions related to the history of food, medicine, and science. In addition to in-person exhibitions, several museums also have created online components or a completely virtual experience; be sure to check the websites for full descriptions, as well as information like hours, fees, directions, and COVID-19 updates. We also welcome readers to share your trips to any museums and exhibits of interest to the Recipes Project community on Twitter or Facebook!
The Art of Food: From the Collections of Jordan D. Schnitzer and His Family Foundation
The Art of Food, featuring over 100 works from the collections of Jordan D. Schnitzer and his Family Foundation, displays how some of the most renowned artists of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries have considered the subject of food. Through a range of media, artists contemplate the necessity of food for sustenance, community, and culture. The artwork displays a range of interaction with food, from production to cooking to consumption. In addition to the physical exhibition, the experience also includes Community Food Stories, a digital collection of stories authored by members of Tucson’s food community.
To explore the experiences of the COVID-19 pandemic, CONTAGION presents artistic, scientific, historical, and contemporary voices and perspectives. This online exhibition examines the transmission of emotions, behaviors, ideas, and diseases, so that visitors can contemplate their spread and impact. The exhibition goes beyond a website; instead, it is an immersive experience, providing writing prompts to all visitors, and frequent live events like lectures, workshops, film screenings, and more. This exhibition was curated by Danielle Olsen and Jahnavi Phalkey.
This exhibition on contagious diseases considers historical outbreaks as well as the more recent coronavirus outbreak. Contagious! invites consideration about how people confronted epidemics in the past and how insights of past outbreaks can inform future responses. The exhibition includes both scientific objects and artistic works, such as a 17th century silk dress scented with lavender to ward off plague and a examples of historical and modern personal protective equipment for medical workers.
In this forthcoming exhibition, a selection of paintings and objects from ancient Egypt to China displays the widespread interest and respect for falcons across time and cultures. The Art of the Hunt includes imagery from ancient Egypt, when falcons were associated with Horus; and from the eighth century on, when falcons were trained to become skillful hunters in the Islamic world, Byzantine empire, and China.
Feeding Black explores the central role of food in Black enterprise and identity in South East London. Through recipes, objects, and stories, the exhibition highlights four African- and Caribbean-owned businesses: Livity Plant Based Cuisine, African Cash & Carry, Junior’s market stall, and Zeret Kitchen. Feeding Black also showcases photography by Jonas Martinez and an original soundscape by Kayode ‘Kayodeine’ Gomez.
This exhibition explores the interrelated histories of glass and wine, especially how glass has been integral to the production and consumption of wine for thousands of years. Visitors will view collection items highlighting this relationship throughout time, like a 2,000-year-old fragment of cameo glass depicting a grape harvest, a still-sealed bottle of wine found in a shipwreck off the coast of England, and dozens of wine glasses from around the world. There is a particular focus the Finger Lakes region of New York State, which has been home to the glass and wine industries for over 150 years. This exhibition was curated by Katherine Larson, Curator of Ancient Glass at the Corning Musuem of Glass.
This installation is an experimental work which explores the merging of technology and biology. The artist, Anicka Yi, invites visitors to consider their role in the ecosystems in which they live through the dissolution of boundaries between plants, animals, microbes, and machines. Yi has installed floating machines (aerobes) in the exhibition space to encourage thought about ways in which machines can inhabit a world without clear distinctions between the living and machines. The installation also includes scentscapes associated with the history of the installation space, Bankside Power Station, at specific points in history.
Life in a Cup presents the story of coffee in parts of the Islamic world, allowing visitors to explore several coffee traditions. The exhibition traces the introduction of coffee into Istanbul by the early 16th century, explores centuries of coffeehouse culture in the Islamic world and beyond, and highlights the beautiful material culture of coffee.
Outbreak provides visitors the opportunity to explore the relationship between the environment, people, animals, and microbes, and how professionals identify and respond to infectious diseases like HIV/AIDS, Ebola virus, influenza, Zika virus, and others. Visitors can engage with interactive simulations to think like an epidemiologist, reflect on personal stories from survivors and frontline healthcare workers, and, through a multi-player game, work cooperatively with other visitors to contain an outbreak before it spreads further. Regular webinars are scheduled to compliment the exhibition; the schedule is available online, as well as recordings of past events.
Amsterdam Central Station (Amsterdam, Netherlands)
In this collaboration between Poppi Museum, Utrecht University (especially Stephen Snelders and Intoxicating Spaces), Inventors Guild, and Corné van der Stelt, visitors can experience how opium has been viewed and used over time. Artists and scholars worked together to translate the history of opium into an exhibition featuring visual and digital components. This pop-up exhibition won’t be up long, so be sure to visit it in the heart of Amsterdam in December.
If you’d like to feature a museum exhibition or collection on the Around the Table, please email Sarah Kernan.
At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, organizations cancelled conferences and events in staggering numbers. As it became clear that events would have to move online in order to continue, our organizations and institutions did so with gusto. While the Recipes Project community may not have had the chance to socialize in person at these events, we are left with a treasure trove of recordings. This is a roundup of free recipes-related recordings from Fall 2020-Fall 2021 conferences, webinars, workshops, and symposia.
The IEHCA – University of Tours (L’Institut Européen d’Histoire et des Cultures de l’Alimentation) hosted the 6th International Conference on Food History and Food Studies (May-June 2021). Recordings of sessions are available through the conference program by clicking on the “Detailed Schedule” link.
A few years ago, my colleagues Heather Trickey (social sciences), Julia Sanders (midwifery) and I decided to put together a small exhibition on the history of infant feeding, with a focus on Wales where we are based. I immediately thought that the exhibition would benefit from the input of Terry Turner OBE, emeritus professor of Pharmacy at Cardiff University. I had met Terry on several occasions, usually in the Cardiff University staff refectory at Aberdare Hall, and knew that he would have something to contribute to the project.
With his habitual generosity with time and expertise, Terry accepted to talk to me and invited me to his house. In the morning that I spent with him on this occasion, I learnt more on infant feeding than I would have done reading several books. Terry showed me examples of historical feeding bottles and nipple-shields from his collections and explained how they were used; told me about the mixing of baby formulas; discussed past treatments for breast engorgement; and gave me useful insights into the commercial aspects of the pharmaceutical trade. He also returned to some of his favourite topics: the pharmacognosy of the Strychnos plant genus, with which he started his academic career (MPharm 1960); some of his adventures in collecting pharmaceutical artefacts and plant specimens; and his disdain for modern pain relief, and in particular paracetamol.
Terence (Terry) Dudley Turner was a key actor in the pharmaceutical community in Wales. He entered the profession at the grand old age of 14, working at the renowned Cardiff Pharmacy Robert Drane. He formally registered as a pharmacist in 1955, and saw his profession change almost beyond recognition over his long career: almost gone today are the pestles and mortars, which had been the symbols of the profession for so long; almost complete now is the separation between botany and pharmacy. Terry was rightly proud of his knowledge of plants and his ability to extract from them healing substances. He travelled the world to collect plant specimens and knew their names in several vernacular languages (in addition of course to their Linnaean names).
With a changing profession in the background, Terry developed an interest in the history of pharmacy. He was a founding member of the British Society for the History of Pharmacy (established 1967), which honoured him with the Leslie Matthews Medal in 2017 for his contribution to the history of British pharmacy. He taught his students about the history of the discipline, he wrote on the topic, but above all he collected artefacts in their thousands and could tell entertaining stories about many of them.
His collection soon became too large for his residence, and he started in the early 1980s to exhibit, loan, and donate it. It is currently displayed in two main locations: the Redwood Building, Cardiff University, and in the Apothecary’s Hall at the National Botanic Garden of Wales. The Turner Collection, formally donated to Cardiff University in 2009, comprises some 1500 artefacts, exhibited over three floors of the Redwood Building, currently curated by Sarah Daly and Briony Hudson. At the National Botanic Garden of Wales, the visitor will enjoy a reconstructed historical pharmacy. While it is in many ways ahistorical, gathering in the same place artefacts produced over many decades, it does capture the feeling of being in a pharmacy around the end of the nineteenth century. I am particularly fond of the scales for weighing babies. Terry also donated and catalogued around 500 materia medica specimens for the National Museum of Wales. While these are not on display, they are a key part of the museum’s economic botany collections.
Welcome to the latest Around the Table! Today we have a chat about the recipes-related collections at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., especially the National Museum of American History (NMAH)! I am delighted to speak with Ashley Rose Young, Historian in the NMAH Division of Work and Industry, and Paula Johnson, Curator in the NMAH Division of Work and Industry.
The Smithsonian has many items of interest to our readership, particularly in the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), National Museum of American History (NMAH), and the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI). Within the collections at all three museums are impressive holdings of items related to recipes research. Could you provide a brief overview of the Smithsonian’s collections related to recipes?
Paula Johnson: Researching recipes at the Smithsonian Institution is a complex endeavor, but one that has the potential for great rewards. With nineteen museums and research bureaus, plus pan-institutional libraries and archives, a veritable trove of material covering an astonishing array of culinary-related subjects awaits the intrepid researcher. While each museum has its own physical branch library, the consolidated digital catalog contains records for all Smithsonian holdings. A useful overview of the institution’s libraries and archives can be found here.
My long experience with Smithsonian collections is based almost entirely on the holdings of the National Museum of American History (NMAH), which houses significant collections of artifacts, documents, books, ephemera, and digital material reflecting many broad areas of culinary history. Among the diverse food-related collections are many that contain recipes, although that may not be apparent at a glance. Due to different cataloging protocols for objects, archives, and libraries over the institution’s 175-year-history, researchers need to think broadly about search terms and pack some patience when accessing the collections. While catalogs and finding aids are key to a researcher’s success, there’s always the possibility of serendipity, as in this item we located in the Smithsonian Archives, a “Receipt Book” for medicinal and dietary uses, kept by James Smithson, the British scientist whose bequest established the Smithsonian Institution in 1846. The handwritten receipts are mostly for simple candies and spirits, including “Pate de Jujubes,” “Usquebaugh,” and various cordials.
In the NMAH collections, recipes can be found in historic cookbooks that are held by the main research library as well as the Dibner Library of the History of Science and Technology. A significant number of books and pamphlets was donated to the Smithsonian Institution Libraries (SIL) by the Culinary Historians of Washington, DC, and that collection continues to grow, courtesy of CHOW. The library also holds a large collection of trade literature and product cookbooks that contain recipes and can be accessed here.
The NMAH Archives Center houses many food history-related collections, including some that contain recipes. Although the word “recipe” may not appear in the record title or even the description, it is possible to access recipes (and marvelous related material) via creative searching. Some highlights include the Pillsbury Bake-off Collection and the Nordic Ware Papers, which include recipe pamphlets from the “Maid of Scandinavia” line of cookware, the forerunner to the Nordic Ware brand, most famous for its Bundt cake pans.
As a curator, I collect objects and archival documents for the museum, and over the years I have brought several collections into the museum that include recipes. A recent example is the Mollie Katzen collecting documenting the development of her Moosewood Cookbook. In addition to the original artwork and early, spiral-bound edition of the book (1974), the collection includes Katzen’s detailed estimates of the cost of each ingredient in each recipe and other papers containing recipe notes. My favorite part of the collection are the letters written to Katzen by fans, some of whom were enthusiastic converts to vegetarian cooking. These documents provide both context and texture to the recipes.
The Archives Center also houses documents collected from the recipients of the Julia Child Award, presented annually since 2015 by the Julia Child Foundation for Gastronomy and the Culinary Arts. Among them is a journal of field notes kept by Chef Rick Bayless, as he and his wife Deann traveled through Mexico in the early 1980s to research regional ingredients, dishes, and cooking techniques. These field notes became the foundation for Bayless’ first book, Authentic Mexican: Regional Cooking from the Heart of Mexico (1987).
Another wonderful and perhaps unexpected document is contained in the Paul Ma Papers, collected from Paul and Linda Ma, a Chinese American couple who operated successful restaurants in the West Chester area of New York, beginning in the 1980s. A well-used, handwritten booklet features recipes for the basic dishes and sauces the Mas remembered from home after migrating to the United States around 1964. With recipes and notes written in both Chinese and English, and with sauce stains identifying the most favored recipes, the booklet also provides insight into the context of Ma’s restaurant menu and cooking.
Occasionally there are recipes filed as “reference material” associated with accessioned objects and these can sometimes be difficult to find without curatorial staff assistance. An example are the thirty-three recipe cards donated by La Deva Davis, an African American teacher whose 1976 television show, “What’s Cooking?” aired on PBS through station WHYY in Wilmington, DE. Donated along with three aprons La Deva Davis wore on the show, the cards provide a record of the dishes she demonstrated (“low cost, high nutrition cooking”), including “Oriental Beef Stew,” “Liptauer Cheese,” and “Think Thin Salad.”
Finally, a note about beer. Our colleague Theresa McCulla, curator of the museum’s American Brewing History Initiative, has collected beer recipes from the individuals who shaped the modern home brewing and craft beer industries. A couple of examples are included in the museum’s exhibition, FOOD: Transforming the American Table Theresa’s work has also inspired a great deal of interest in some of the older brewing history collections at the museum and for one beer historian, the Archives Center yielded recipe gold. As he was researching the Walter H. Voigt Brewing Industry Collection, the researcher found a 1930 recipe for Bock beer that called for corn, rice, and sugar scribbled on a piece of paper. In 2019, brewers at Denizens Brewing Co. in Silver Spring, Maryland, created an American bock from the recipe found in the NMAH Archives Center.
You have been creating a lot of programming around food culture in recent years at the Smithsonian-could you talk about that and how you have adapted during the COVID-19 closures this year?
Ashley Rose Young: The American Food History Project at NMAH hosts a variety of public programs including Cooking Up History, Deep-Dish Dialogues, Roundtables, Conversation Circles, Brewing History After Hours, Ask a Farmer, and more. Additionally, during our annual Food History Weekend, we invite community leaders, food practitioners, activists, academics, policy makers, and the public to come together to discuss a central theme in American history and in our current moment.
Recently, while planning for the all-virtual 2020 Food History Weekend, “Food Futures: Striving for Justice,” we took inspiration from what we saw in our research and collecting around COVID-19: that people are looking ahead with energy and hope for creating better systems and more innovative and humane solutions that will address long-term needs when we emerge from these unprecedented conditions. That weekend, our Cooking Up History programs featured chefs who each shared and prepared a recipe and spoke about its traditional and contemporary significance to food justice. Chef Nico Albert of the Cherokee Nation, for example, prepared Sumac-Crusted Trout with Sauteed Mushrooms and Greens, and guided audiences through foraging for sumac and greens, while also speaking about the culinary heritage of the Cherokee people. She emphasized that retaining and celebrating traditional foodways was a means of securing food sovereignty for indigenous communities across the U.S.
As with Chef Nico’s demonstration, all of our Cooking Up History programs are centered around recipes, the history and traditions behind their ingredients, culinary techniques, and enjoyment. The recipes and descriptions of each event can be found on our website under “Past Demos and Recipes.”
For 2021, we are currently developing new models to bring Cooking Up History and other food history programs to digital audiences throughout the year. Please visit our website this spring for updates.
What tips can you offer to help users find collection items? Is it possible to search all of the Smithsonian’s holdings at once, or do researchers need to look at the individual museums?
Ashley Rose Young: I had a chance to reach out to Alison Oswald, an archivist at the Archives Center at NMAH, for tips on how to navigate the vast collections of the Smithsonian, which, admittedly, can be somewhat daunting given the volume of material available. Alison noted that the data related to our collections are exported into the Collections Search Center (CSC), and the CSC is a good place for researchers to start when they want to search across the Smithsonian including all museums, archives, libraries, and research units.
Researchers can also search finding aids in Smithsonian archives by visiting the Smithsonian Online Virtual Archives(SOVA). Some finding aids include digitized content linked at collection, series, and folder level.
Alison also provided a few tips on how to make the best of your searches on CSC and SOVA:
It can help to use quotes (“ ”) around the key word/search term and to make use of the facets, which allow you to limit a search. For example, “recipes” in SOVA yields 214 collection level records, but if you wanted to know what kind of recipes the National Museum of Air and Space has, you can limit it by selecting archival repository and you get 4 collections.
Researchers should also try a variety of terms when searching. Recipes is a pretty specific term so starting broader with cookbooks, cookery, cooking, baking, etc. can be useful. Most catalogs do something called “stemming” which is when the catalog searches for the “root” of a word and displays all words with that stem. For example, the word “searching” or “search” or “searches” all stem to “search”.
Last but not least, Alison noted that catalogs are works in progress that are constantly evolving, and that the Smithsonian welcomes feedback from researchers to make our catalogs better.
For researchers who have projects and interests spanning multiple museums within the Smithsonian, how do you recommend they go about searching for pertinent materials?
Paula Johnson: This is such an important issue and one we have explored recently through a special collaboration with colleagues in the UK and the US, with support from the UK’s Arts and Humanities Research Council. While this initiative has been the subject of previous posts, I’ll simply share that we worked with graduate student researchers from the Boston University Program in Gastronomy to test the ease and challenges of conducting food-related subject searches across the Smithsonian’s consolidated digital collections catalogs. The resulting white paper, “Looking for Food in the New Smithsonian Institution Catalog,” is under review and will help inform how we can improve cataloging to make materials more accessible across subject areas.
How much of the Smithsonian’s holdings are digitized? What other digital resources and events are available?
Ashley Rose Young: I also had the opportunity to touch base with Sherri Berger, the head of NMAH’s Digital Programs Office, about the Smithsonian’s digital offerings. Sherri noted that as of 2019, the Smithsonian holds 155.4 million museum objects and specimens, about 19 million of which have been digitized; 1.2 million library volumes, about 760,000 of which have been either fully or partially digitized; and 163,000 cubic feet of archival material, with 5.6 million digitized items. For ways to learn about and access these materials, please see our answer to question 3.
In addition to these materials, the Smithsonian hosts numerous virtual events. You can learn about NMAH’s food history offering by signing up to our newsletter and selecting “food history” as a topic of interest.
We also have recordings of past events available online. You can watch our 2020 Food History Weekend programming and other food-related events on our YouTube “food history” playlist.
Does the Smithsonian offer any fellowships or grants for researchers?
Ashley Rose Young: The Smithsonian offers research fellowships to graduate students, predoctoral students, and postdoctoral and senior investigators to conduct independent research and to utilize the resources of the Institution with members of the Smithsonian professional research staff serving as advisors and hosts. These fellowships are offered through the Smithsonian’s Office of Fellowships and Internships, and are administered under the charter of the Institution, 20 U.S. Code section 41 et seq. You can learn more about our fellowship program here.
*Several photos in this post were taken by research staff and are not official scans provided by the Smithsonian museums and archives. Because the Smithsonian research facilities have been closed due to the pandemic, we are not able to provide proper scans.