Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Monday, May 17, 2010

Donors of American culinary history collection
to be honored

After decades of gathering materials and hunting down leads for hard-to-find collectibles, Janice and Daniel Longone’s long investigative journey has yielded a treasure trove of more than 20,000 items relating to American culinary history.

The Longones, whose collection is kept at the Clements Library, will be honored June 8 in a ceremony sponsored by Provost Teresa Sullivan at the Hatcher Graduate Library.

These are some examples of the more than 20,000 items relating to American culinary history in the the Janice Bluestein Longone Culinary Archive. (Photos courtesy of the Courtesy of Janice Bluestein Longone Culinary Archive)

“The Longones’ generous gift provides scholars the opportunity to conduct original research and reinterpret the role of the culinary arts and food-related rituals in American life,” says President Mary Sue Coleman.

Select items from the collection will be on public display in the Audubon Room (Room 100) at the Hatcher Graduate Library, June 1-28. The exhibit is free.

The assorted materials will be preserved in the Janice Bluestein Longone Culinary Archive, named for the curator of American Culinary History at the Clements Library, a pre-eminent depository of American history and culture from the 15th century to mid-20th century.

The Longones’ donation, originally announced at the First Biennial Symposium on American Culinary History in 2005, transforms the university’s current culinary collection into one of the most extensive scholarly resources on the subject of American food, cooking and rituals.

In addition, the donation comes at a time of widespread and growing academic interest in the culinary arts, as well as public interest as measured by the increasing number of cooking schools, popularity of cooking programs and sales of cookbooks.

Because cooking is inextricably linked to agriculture, class standing, geographic location, ethnic background and technology, the archive offers a “refreshing and different perspective” on American history, says Janice Longone.

Among the thousands of books, menus, advertisements, diaries, graphics, maps, letters, reference works and other ephemera is a collection of early European works that influenced cooking in America. Notable relics include the first American cookbook (1796); the first cookbook published by an African-American woman (1866); the first Jewish cookbook published in America (1871); and the first national cookbook, which was published for America’s Centennial in 1876 to answer the oft-asked query, “Have you no national dishes?”

Janice Longone says that intensive study of the archive also may lead to a rethinking of how American agriculture and culinary practices defined regional customs and traditions. The archive includes American imprints in 26 foreign languages, which collectively reflect a “melting pot” and the eclectic flavor of American culture.

“Our hope is we have gathered materials that offer researchers access into a new way of looking at American history,” she says. “That could be the rethinking of the role of women, who were publishing more than 150 years ago charity (fund-raising) cookbooks, which often reflected the pressing issues of the day, or simply, the impact of refrigeration on American tastes and lifestyles.”

The archive has a significant and arguably unparalleled collection of charity cookbooks from every state.

By its nature, the study of culinary history draws on many disciplines, and thereby, will likely provoke scholarly interest from a range of experts in such fields as history, business, the arts, sociology, popular culture and ethnic studies.

Archivists currently are cataloging the massive collection. Scholars interested in examining the archive should contact the Clements Library at 734-764-2347 or clements.library@umich.edu, or go to www.clements.umich.edu/culinary/index.html.