Greetings from your friendly historic Los Angeles sightseeing tour company, now offering digital programming until we can again organize groups to gather and explore the city we love.
For our latest post that’s hidden from the rest of the internet, we’d like to share a few neat things we found at UCLA Special Collections, back when libraries were open to researchers and we could spend a day browsing boxes of printed matter looking for something thrilling we didn’t know existed.
There’s great value in material accumulated by scholars or that represent a writer’s unpublished life, and we used to regularly consult such collections. But there’s also a weird sort of potluck accumulation that shows up in the finding aids of large institutions, representing loose papers on a theme that arrive from different sources over many years, and get consolidated into a brand new, and growing, archive.
UCLA doesn’t go out of its way to collect restaurant menus, and they don’t digitize their holdings—Los Angeles Public Library does both, published a book and hosted an exhibition.
But people who donate their papers to the university frequently send over menus that they thought worth hanging onto. The individual menus don’t tell us much about the people who originally took them home, but they become interesting when they get organized by location and filed away in banker’s boxes.
So one day a few years back, we put in a request to see a box of menus, took our seats in the wood paneled reading room, slipped on the provided white cotton gloves, and took a virtual tour through the belly of mid-century Los Angeles.
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