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USM Faculty Members Earn British University Grant for Digitization, Transcription of Mississippi Community Cookbooks

Wed, 09/09/2020 - 14:48pm | By: David Tisdale

Jennifer BrannockJennifer Brannock, curator of Rare Books & Mississippiana at The University of Southern Mississippi (USM), and Dr. Andrew P. Haley, a USM history professor and food historian, are recipients of an £8,000 ($10,400) grant from the Arts & Humanities Research Council via the University of Sheffield (UK).

The grant provides support for the digitization and transcription of Mississippi community cookbooks. USM is home to the largest collection of Mississippi cookbooks in the world.

Two years ago, Universities Libraries at USM joined an international effort to explore ways in which English-language culinary resources could be shared. The group included the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, Boston University, the Wellcome Collection, the University of York, the University of Brighton, the Folger Shakespeare Library, and the University of South Florida among others. Dr. Christian Reynolds at the University Sheffield spearheaded the initiative, and was awarded a prestigious Arts & Humanities Research Council grant. A portion of that grant has allowed USM to increase its efforts to transcribe the community cookbooks, and to hire six student workers to significantly increase the number of cookbooks online. Although the project was delayed slightly by the COVID-19 crisis, it is expected that the digitization effort will be completed in October.

Dr. Andrew P. HaleyThe Culinary Collection at USM was started six years ago by Brannock and Dr. Haley. They started with 15 cookbooks and today, mostly through donations, the collection houses nearly 8,000. The heart of the collection is more than 200 historical community cookbooks from throughout Mississippi published between the 1890s and 1970, but the collection also holds more than 1,000 contemporary community cookbooks, hundreds of cookbooks from Mississippi and surrounding states, manuscript collections from food writers, and a selection of general cookbooks, many written by famous and influential American cookbook authors. The breadth of the collection makes it a valuable resource for historians as well as scholars who study nutrition and hospitality.

“Culinary studies are changing the way we see the past and ourselves,” Dr. Haley said. “Digitizing works and sharing them globally will make it possible for scholars to see how changes halfway around the globe transformed daily life in Mississippi. This is an exciting moment to be a food scholar.”

To view some of the digitized and transcribed cookbooks, search the Digital Collections at https://digitalcollections.usm.edu/. For more information about the Mississippi community cookbook collection and activities or to make a donation, contact Brannock at Jennifer.Brannock@usm.edu or 601.266.4347.