Food for Thought: A Taste of Special Collections in Farming, Dining, and War

I recently had the pleasure of working with Jennifer Bidwell on my very first Special Collections exhibit. In deciding on a “Summery” theme, we came up with food and found an abundance of relevant provisions throughout our collections to put on display. An initial survey of materials pointed to a number of subtopics we could present, such as agriculture, dining, cooking, the politics of food, food and population control, cultural dietary customs, and food relevant to California. Realizing we would have to limit our selection to what would fit in the cases, we chose to focus on farming, dining, and war.


The materials on display span three centuries, highlight multiple cultures, and range from books and pamphlets to posters, cutlery, and even a teapot. Along with drawing from our general collection of books, the exhibit showcases materials from a number of collections, including some that can be accessed through the Online Archive of California. These include the American Missionaries and Educators in China Collection, the World War Poster Collection, and the William McPherson Papers. Other represented collections include The Claremont Colleges Archives, the Nordic Collections, and the William Smith Mason Collection of Western Americana.

If you’re looking for a recipe, perhaps something prepared at the Pitzer Grove House, or something new to you, like sparrows brains (from Venus in the Kitchen), you will find it in the exhibit. You can also take a stroll down memory lane in Los Angeles or San Francisco as you read about local favorite restaurants, where you could have had a meal for under $6.00 and who was serving the best sushi.

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Working on this exhibit, I was reminded of the wealth of information the library has to offer. It was also a nice change from my usual reading for school and I had fun flipping through books on the proper diet for a criminal and how dates came to be grown in California.
The exhibit will run until August 30, 2013. Please consider yourself our guest, come by and enjoy this feast of food for thought.