Cooks, bakers, and culinary historians around the globe now have immediate online access to nearly 100 volumes in the UC San Diego Library’s American Institute of Wine & Food (AIWF) Culinary Collection. Spearheaded by Special Collections & Archives (SC&A), this digitization project has allowed the Library to successfully share historic and rarely seen cookbooks, manuscripts, and pamphlets featuring advertisements for food products—some materials dating back to the early 17th century.
“Making a portion of this collection digitally accessible via our Digital Collections website allows us to share these rare books and recipes from generations past with both the UC San Diego community and the public at large,” said Lynda Claassen, director of the Library’s Special Collections & Archives. “The digitized volumes give users a taste of the breadth and depth of our culinary collection. We encourage community members to access and share these newly digitized treasures, whether for scholarly research or personal pleasure.”
The digitized items include a wealth of Mexican culinary manuscripts, some dating back to the early 19th century, as well as other unique manuscripts. Additional works reflect the assimilation of ethnic cuisines into California’s food culture, and all illustrate how food and drink reflect the cultural environments in which they exist.
“Many are turning to cooking to help them decompress during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Erik Mitchell, the Audrey Geisel University Librarian. “Digitizing and sharing a portion of the Library’s culinary collection gives us an opportunity to help the community cope with the pressures of the pandemic while also delivering on our duty to preserve these materials in perpetuity.”
In 1991, the AIWF donated half of its library, which consisted of approximately 400 volumes, to UC San Diego. Those volumes focused largely on European cuisine and culinary history from the 17th to early 19th centuries. In the years since, the Library has continued to add materials to this collection that support the campus’s academic interests in Mexico, the Pacific Rim, Latin America, California, and the American West. The entire collection now includes more than 7,000 volumes and continues to grow.