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Food for Thought at Schlesinger and the University Archives

“Adventures in Gastronomy” is the focus of Cambridge’s Sixth Annual Open Archives Tour.


August 12, 2014—The Harvard University Archives and Schlesinger Library opened their doors to a display of food-related items. While recipes abounded, a few items took the cake, including Julia Child’s Emmy award, a sketch of an epic 1818 Harvard dining hall food fight and china used at Harvard in the 19th century.

The Archives’ display was but a sampling of its holdings. “We hope that this will be a little bit of a taste for you and you’ll come back for more,” Robin McElheny told the tour. Robin is the associate university archivist for collections and public services.

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Natascha Burger

Open Archives tours give members behind-the-scenes access. Somerville resident Natascha Burger, pictured, made an outing of it with her mother, and was excited to see Julia Child’s papers.

inhalable chocolate

Each Archives staff member selected one item to display. Pictured here is Le Whif, an inhalable chocolate invented by Harvard Professor David Edwards.

Hasty Pudding sketch

Hasty Pudding Club records from 1799 include this sketch by landscape painter Washington Allston, Harvard Class of 1800.


A combined plate/tray designed by Walter Gropius was used in Harvard’s dining halls around 1950.

1957 Dinner Party Registry

The Schlesinger collects culinary materials to capture an important aspect of women’s history. “Understanding cookery was integral to understanding women’s lives,” said Mark Vassar, lead manuscript cataloger at Schlesinger Library, who curated the Schlesinger items. A 1957 dinner party register records the guest list and menu.

Julia Child's Emmy Award

The 1966 Primetime Emmy Award Julia Child won for “individual achievement in educational television” sits beside a copper pot and whisk from her Cambridge kitchen.

Instructions for rat poison

Household recipes were not limited to food—any concoction might be included in early home cookbooks, including instructions for making rat poison (above), floor varnish, cough syrup, etc.

Recipe for French bread

“I’ve been here ten years and there are things out today that I’ve never seen before,” said Marylene Altieri, curator of books and printed material at the Schlesinger. Pictured here are Julia Child’s notes on her experiments making perfect French bread in the US.