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Thursday, June 25 • 8:30am - 10:00am
Hiding in Plain Sight: Cookbooks as an Instructional Resource

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Sponsored by Arthur Fournier

Cookbook collections are becoming more common in academic and research libraries, as scholars have become aware of their value for social history. Even institutions without dedicated cookbook collections are likely to have some food-related material, such as menus in a travel collection, trade cards in an advertising collection, or cookbooks by immigrants in a collection focused on a particular ethnic group.

Cookbooks and primary sources on food are filled with illustrations of gender-based, class-based, and race-based power structures -- often all three in the same item -- ranging from subtle clues to very clear examples. To list just a few: the visual and textual portrayal of mothers and children, the use of the Mammy caricature in depicting African American women, marriage and relationship advice embedded within cookbooks, and aspirational home and etiquette advice to immigrants and other upwardly mobile readers. The diverse and accessible content makes the genre effective with students from middle school to college level. Yet the ubiquitous nature of cookbooks means that they are often overlooked.

This participant-driven session is designed to uncover the potential that cookbooks and culinary ephemera have for instruction and student research on issues surrounding power and social roles, as well as providing examples of groups organizing for change and preserving cultural heritage.

The session will begin with an opportunity for participants to brainstorm sources of culinary material in their own collections, and to share with the group how they may have already used this genre to illustrate power dynamics and to trace efforts by marginalized groups to build power. In the hands-on portion, participants will examine 19th and 20th century cookbooks and culinary ephemera from the collections of Michigan State University and the University of Michigan. We will encourage each table to sketch a lesson plan based on the materials they examine, to be shared with the entire group. There will also be an opportunity to discuss and explore ways of using digitized culinary collections to supplement local holdings, drawing specifically on digital collections at Michigan State University and cookbooks in Hathi Trust.

Content Advisory: Some of the historical materials in this session may include racist imagery or text. The organizers have sought to choose these items with care and avoid unnecessary or gratuitous examples.

avatar for Juli McLoone

Juli McLoone

Curator, Special Collections Research Center, University of Michigan Library
Juli McLoone is a Curator in the University of Michigan Library Special Collections Research Center, where she is responsible for the Children’s Literature Collection, the Janice Bluestein Longone Culinary Archive, the Hubbard Collection of Imaginary Voyages, literary and theater... Read More →


Ruth Ann Jones

Special Collection Education and Outreach Librarian, Michigan State University
avatar for Leslie Van Veen McRoberts

Leslie Van Veen McRoberts

Head of Special Collections, Michigan State University
Leslie Van Veen McRoberts is the Head of the Stephen O. Murray and Keelung Hong Special Collections at Michigan State University. Prior to joining MSU, she served as the Local History Archivist at the Edward H. Nabb Research Center for Delmarva History and Culture at Salisbury University... Read More →

Jessica Martin

Africana Studies Librarian and Special Collections Curator for Africana and International Cookbooks, Michigan State University

Rebecca Huffman

Description Project Assistant, Special Collections Research Center, University of Michigan Library

Tad Boehmer

Curator of Rare Books, Special Collections, Michigan State University

Thursday June 25, 2020 8:30am - 10:00am PDT