Finding the History of a Culture in Library Cookbook Collections
Library Cookbook Collections
Of course, libraries have books of all kinds. But you may not be aware that there are many libraries across the U.S., mostly university libraries, that have special collections involving cookbooks. They can range from generalized collections to specialized archives, including New York Public Library’s Dorot Jewish Division that has more than 2,500 Jewish cookbooks, to the University of Alabama’s David Walker Lupton African American Cookbook Collection, to the University of Iowa’s Szathmary Culinary Manuscripts & Cookbook Collection, which contains a wide variety of cooking-related publications. Many of these collections are available to the general public, not just faculty and staff.
To gain an understanding of why these types of collections are valuable, and why they matter to people outside the university setting, I talked with Kristen Nyitray, director of special collections and university archives at Stony Brook University on Long Island, and with Megan Kocher, science librarian at the University of Minnesota. Nyitray oversees the Jacqueline M. Newman Chinese Cookbook Collection, and Kocher works with the Doris S. Kirschner Cookbook Collection.