I met Cynthia Bertelsen through her role as a member of the Peacock-Harper Culinary History Friends group, which formed around a special collection of culinary books at Virginia Tech. The Peacock-Harper Culinary Collection contains more than 3,000 works, including 1,700 in a rare books room, and dates as far back as 1693. I’ve received a lot of interesting information from the friends group since I first heard of it a few years ago.
Last month, Bertelsen sent an e-mail about a special digital collection at the University of Nevada Las Vegas called Menus: The Art of Dining. It seems the folks there have collected and digitized more than 1,500 restaurant menus from around the world. The bulk of their collection is made up of the Bohn-Bettoni Collection, a personal collection consisting of about 2,000 restaurant menus dating from 1870-1930. Bohn was editor and publisher of “Hotel World” magazine and Bettoni was a restaurant manager in London in the late 19th century.
The UNLV database is so cool because you can scroll through the collection on your computer and see each of these menus. Not only does the food on these menus provide a slice of history, but some of the menus feature brilliant art work. Many of the restaurants are long gone, including some of the original Las Vegas establishments, which were destroyed to build what is the existing strip.
If you’ve got a little time on your hands to poke around and look through this menu collection, click here and have fun. Incidentally, you can also look at a few digitized versions of works in the Peacock-Harper collection here.
Hey, maybe I should send some of Howard’s old Roanoke menus, such as this Villa Sorrento menu, to UNLV, eh?