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Introduction to the Menu Project

By Angela Moor on June 28, 2019 1:46 PM | Permalink


UNLV staff working on menus in 1970

Special Collections Librarian Susan Anderl (seated left) with library staff member Linda Compton (seated right) and Wende Lestelle, student worker, 1979

Beginning in 1970, the UNLV Libraries Special Collections and Archives Division began collecting menus earnestly, including the collection of Henry J. Bohn, a publisher of hotel trade magazines and extensive collector of historic menus. Bohn had acquired the menus of Henri Bettoni, who worked in restaurants in London at the turn of the twentieth century. These early menus comprise the Bohn-Bettoni Menu Collection (MS-00793) and started the UNLV Libraries’ efforts to collect menus from across the world.

Early Special Collections librarians recognized the value of the menus to students at UNLV’s College of Hotel Administration (today’s William F. Harrah College of Hospitality) and, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, began a project to catalog and index the menus in an early computer database.

The collection includes menus from the earliest resorts and casinos as well as from across the United States and the world. Special Collections staff developed a relationship with the National Restaurant Association and received menus annually from restaurants that won menu design awards. Library staff and friends would bring back menus from their travels. Donations from several individuals also expanded the collection. The menu collection has been widely used by historians and students of hospitality.

In addition to restaurant menus, the collection also includes dining menus from travel by train, air, and ship. A large online exhibit, Menus, the Art of Dining, describes the history of menus and highlights some of the collection.

This summer UNLV Libraries Special Collections and Archives Division has embarked on an exciting effort to process the University Libraries’ large collection of menus. A generous donation from Mark and Marianne Haley allowed us to hire five undergraduate students to work on the menu project for twelve weeks.


Student workers for the menu project

UNLV students: Chriziel Childers, Kyle Gagnon, Lauren Paljusaj, Mary Anilao, and Paola Landaverde

The UNLV University Libraries Menu Collection (MS-00436) measured over 250 linear feet before processing. Special Collections and Archives Division staff members, Tammi Kim, Sarah Jones, and Angela Moor have overseen the early stages of the project as we have begun to sort and organize the menus.

Menu team organizing and sorting menus

This summer, the project team will put the menus in folders and boxes and organize them by geographic location. The team will create a detailed online inventory that will help researchers discover the menus and greatly improve access to the collection.Please watch this space in the coming weeks for posts from our students describing some of the things they have learned from the menus.

Please watch this space in the coming weeks for posts from our students describing some of the things they have learned from the menus.