While most New Yorkers keep just a few dozen restaurant menus in a kitchen drawer, the library has more than 40,000 in its stacks, listing eats ranging from the 1843 fare at the Astor House to the 2010 offerings at Chipotle.
“It’s a record of what people actually ate,” said Rebecca Federman, the culinary collection’s librarian. “It began in 1900 and is now part of our rare-books division because it is such a unique, ephemeral collection.”
But since these menus, like most of the rare books, are not available for takeout, the library is working to digitize the collection and this spring will enlist volunteers’ help in transcribing each dish on the scanned pages so that the database can be indexed.
“With the public’s help, we’ll be able to generate an amazing, searchable database, where you can visualize neighborhood restaurants and prices of dishes over time,” said Ben Vershbow, the project’s digital producer.
See Also: The Los Angeles Public Library Offers an Online Searchable Database of Digitized Historic Menus From In and Around LA.
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