The Culinary Institute of America shares historical menus with CONTENTdm

The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) has used CONTENTdm since 2013 to shine a light on its collection of 30,000 historical menus. The CIA opened its doors in 1946, and is known as the world’s premier culinary college. The CIA is focused on training leaders in foodservice and hospitality.

This selection of menus from The Culinary Institute of America Menu Collection dates back to 1855. The collection has been assembled over many decades and it illustrates the diverse history of fine dining in America and around the world. Though the collection includes menus from the Hudson Valley region and from CIA restaurants and hotels in New York state and New York City, menus from all 50 states and 80 countries are represented. Menus are also included from various modes of travel such as: ships, railroads and airlines.

The CIA used CONTENTdm’s customization capability to make all of the menus searchable by keyword via a search box on the collection’s main page. CONTENTdm provides the Website Configuration Tool for branding and tailoring the appearance and behavior of key elements of CONTENTdm websites. This tool enables site configuration by setting default values, enabling or disabling components, choosing colors, fonts and styles, and describing websites and collections. All of this is accomplished without programming skills.

The CIA’s collection includes holiday menus for New Year’s, Valentine’s Day, Washington’s Birthday, St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, Mother’s Day, The Fourth of July, Thanksgiving and Christmas. These menus highlight that favorite holiday celebrations are often centered on food. As part of these celebrations, restaurants and hotels often produced special menus for holiday meals. These holiday menus expanded on daily menus, and they were elaborately designed and listed some of the finest foods that were being served at that time and place.

The Institute receives help from students to add menus to its digital collection. In October 2016, the CIA held a Transcribathon, a marathon at which a group of students spent time transcribing menus. For this event, the Conrad N. Hilton Library provided instructions and all of the tools that the CIA students needed to transcribe menus. They incentivized participants with food, drinks, games and prizes. When the CIA adds menus to its digital collection, staff make sure there is a transcription so that the menu is fully searchable.

The CIA menus are part of the CIA Archives and Special Collections, housed in the Conrad N. Hilton Library. The library partnered with the Hudson River Valley Heritage and Southeastern New York Library Resources Council to start this digital collection and then they purchased their own system.

Digitized item from the Culinary Institute of America's collection