What’s on the menu?

The New York Public Library has an awesome new project: they’re asking their patrons to help transcribe 40,000 menus from the 1840s to the present. Through transcription, the menus will have so many more access points: by dish, price, etc. Not only do you get better results than with OCR, but it’s a great way to make users feel like they’re contributing — because they are!

When I worked on the Wallace B. Chung and Madeline H. Chung Collection at UBC Library, I got to catalogue ephemera from the collection relating to the Canadian Pacific Railway Company, including a huge selection of menus from the 30s and 40s. These were from both the railway cars and the railway hotels run by the CPR. They are so many fascinating details in old menus, such as the government rationing regulations on this dinner menu from Chateau Lake Louise in 1946.

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