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9_21 Smithsonian Food Research Project White Paper .docx (23.72 kB)

Looking for Food in the New Smithsonian Institution Catalog, a White Paper

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posted on 2020-09-23, 13:41 authored by Megan J. Elias, Laura Kitchings, Hannah Spiegelman

The Smithsonian Institution collection is particularly important for food studies research because it spans so many categories of collections over such a long time period and consequently both catches many objects related to food and many interpretations of those objects. Thus, the catalog can be useful both for the study of food and for the meta-study of the subject.

This paper explores digital access to the Smithsonian Institution collections as currently configured in 2020. We identify a set of problems without proposing solutions because to do so is beyond our scope. Nonetheless, we hope that the way we frame the problems will help in identifying solutions and improving access to this extraordinary collection, vibrant with objects and meanings.

Our primary focus in this paper is the researcher who does approach the catalog with a food project in mind, we want to ensure that we readers recognize the importance of the collection’s power to reveal food to those not looking for it.

This white paper explores these challenges as they relate to research in food studies. The three authors are one food historian with a PhD, one professional archivist and Master’s degree candidate in Food Studies and one Master’s degree candidate in Food Studies. We conducted multiple sample searches at different levels of specificity to simulate the ways we could imagine researchers using the search tool.


AHRC US-UK Food Digital Scholarship network

UK Research and Innovation

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