creative:impact - The history of art and food
Creative industries in Washtenaw County add hundreds of millions of dollars to the local economy. In the weeks and months to come, host Deb Polich, the President and CEO of Creative Washtenaw, explores the myriad of contributors that make up the creative sector in Washtenaw County.
ABOUT JULI MCLOONE:
As a curator in the the Special Collections Research Center, I provide collection and research support for print materials published after 1700 and several of our archival collections. Some of my areas of emphasis include the Janice Bluestein Longone Culinary Archive, the Children’s Literature Collection, the Hubbard Collection of Imaginary Voyages, artist’s books, and literary and theatre archival collections.
Please feel free to reach out to me if you wish to arrange aninstruction session incorporating special collections materials. I enjoy working with instructors to design sessions that meet a variety of learning objectives, from one-time visits to semester-long projects.
Prior to coming to the University of Michigan in 2015, I served as the Rare Books Librarian at the University of Texas at San Antonio, where I curated collections focusing on the history and culture of the Texas-Mexico Border Region and on the culinary history of Mexico. I hold an MA in Library and Information Science and an MA in Cultural Anthropology, both from the University of Iowa. As a member of the Rare Books and Manuscripts Section of the American Library Association, I have served on committees for Diversity, Exhibition Awards, Scholarships, and Conference Planning.
Deb Polich: Welcome to creative:impact on 89 one WEMU. It's Tuesday, and time for our show. Thanks for tuning in to meet another creative guest deeply rooted in Washtenaw County, to discover how their work, business, products, programs, or services impact and add to our local quality of life, place, and economy. I'm Deb Polich, president and CEO of Creative Washtenaw. And I have the pleasure of being your host. So, I love to cook. I would never call myself a chef, but I'm really comfortable in the kitchen. And one of the things that gives me great pleasure is getting cookbooks out with the family and planning big meals and holidays at the holiday times and otherwise. Apparently, I'm not alone. Expressing one's creativity through cooking is one of the top five ways people do that. Juli McLoone is the curator of the Janice Bluestein Longone Culinary Archive at the University of Michigan's Special Collections Research Center. And I'm sure she knows all about culinary creativity. Welcome to the show, Juli.
Juli McLoone: Thank you, Deb. I'm excited to be here.
Deb Polich: We're happy you're here, too. So, I'm probably like a lot of folks who think they know that librarians take care of books and a library, and curators care for art and artifacts in a museum. That's probably too simple. What is the role of a library curator?
Juli McLoone: Sure. So, honestly, titles tend to vary a lot by institution.
Deb Polich: Okay.
Juli McLoone: I would actually usually just call myself a librarian. But, as a curator, specifically in this context at the University of Michigan Library, I have responsibility for certain collections within special collections. Mostly, I work with post-1700 materials and then some special topical areas, including the Janice Bluestein Longone Culinary Archive. And I kind of work on both ends. So, sort of on the back end, I work to build the collections. I bring materials into the library, both through purchases, working with rare book dealers and the like, and also working with donors in the community who have materials that are relevant to the collections and who are interested in donating them to us. And then on the other side, I work in public services to promote the use of those collections. So, doing instruction with courses at the University of Michigan, exhibits, other outreach events, things like that.
Deb Polich: So, the U of M library system is pretty big. Is there a specific venue you work out of, or do you cut across all of them?
Juli McLoone: Yeah. So, the Special Collections Research Center is located in the Hatcher Graduate Library. So, we're one of really several sort of things you would call special collections or archives on campus. The Bentley Historical Library, on North Campus, for example, focuses on Michigan history and University history, and the Clements Library focuses on the history of the Americas to 1900. Special collections in Hatcher has a number of varied--quite varied--topical interests. I couldn't even go through them all here, but if you look at our website, you'll see them. So, everything from Renaissance and Islamic manuscripts to the 20th century, advertising ephemera from Jell-O and baking powder that I work with.
Deb Polich: Jell-O. I'm loving it. So, let's talk about that collection. I know that you were--not originally, but you came to the university through Texas. And we're glad you found your way here. But were you here when the archive came to you? Was it a donated collection, or how did that all come about?
Juli McLoone: You know, so it predates me. So, the collection originated with Janice Bluestein Longone and her husband, Daniel T. Longone, who is a chemistry professor emeritus at the University of Michigan. And they had a lifetime interest in culinary matters, in fact. So, Jan was always interested in food and cooking and gastronomy. But when they were graduate students, they had some friends who were international students who had invited them over for meals to their home and then asked Jan to prepare them a typical American meal. And then she said, "I had to ask myself, what is a typical American meal?" And that sort of set her down this road of research and sort of getting really deeply involved in what was then just barely even developing as food studies and culinary studies. So, she had a mail order bookshop for many years called the Food and Wine Library. So, some of your listeners might actually have been familiar with it. And she had customers, including Julia Child and James Beard, who would contact Jan Longone when they were trying to find something really hard to find. And so, in the early 2000s, Jan and Dan began donating their collection to the University of Michigan as an ongoing process, and Jan serves as the adjunct curator for the collection as well. So, she remained very involved in its development. And I continue to work with Dan today actually to continue adding to the collection.
Deb Polich: How fascinating! 89 one WEMU's creative:impact continues. I'm your host, Deb Polich, and my guest is Juli McLoone, curator of the special collections at the University of Michigan Library. So, gosh, did you ever get the answer to the question? What is a typical American meal?
Juli McLoone: Yeah, you know, I think that there isn't really a typical American meal as such. We sort of think very loosely that the collection focuses on American culinary history, but we take a very sort of broad, cloud-based approach to that. So, influences upon American culinary history, influences of the American industrialization of the food system elsewhere in the world. We have a particular focus on cookbooks by and for immigrant communities. We have a really strong Jewish cookbook collection. We have Jewish community cookbooks, in particular Jewish charity cookbooks from every state, including Alaska and Hawaii. We have a strong regional cookbook collection. African American cookbooks. So, America has a really big, messy, wonderful, complicated place, and we try to reflect that in the collection.
Deb Polich: Well, I'm sure we can all look back at our childhood and what we consumed in our home and then the influences of other things. My husband, Russ Collins, talks about how here, even in Ann Arbor, we didn't have, when he was growing up, there weren't tons of restaurants. So, he wasn't exposed to other kinds of foods except for the, frankly, southern foods that his mother prepared because they were from Ozark, Missouri. But that influence from all those other culinary collections or, you know, expertise, I mean, it's kind of the melting pot on the stove. Wouldn't you say?
Juli McLoone: It can be. So, I mean, there's always sort of a "Is it a melting pot or is it a stew? And how much is it?"
Deb Polich: Right. There you go.
Juli McLoone: One of the things that I find really interesting is that when people relocate, even within the United States, you find different ingredients on the shelves in the grocery store. And of course, today, you can mail order almost anything through the Internet. But that wasn't always the case. And so, people might be creating traditional dishes, but reinventing them with the ingredients that they have available at hand.
Deb Polich: Right. Right. And I know I certainly do that as well. So, what about you? First of all, do you like to play around in the kitchen? And then, do you ever try to create some of the recipes that you find in the collection?
Juli McLoone: I do. I do enjoy cooking quite a lot. I have always enjoyed baking, and I have two small children right now, so I don't do a whole lot of cooking from the collection. You mentioned that my previous position was in Texas, where I was also lucky enough to work with their Mexican cookbook collection. And so, back when I was younger and had a little bit more free time, I actually used to cook a lot from that collection, which was very educational as someone coming originally from Indiana. I was from the Midwest, moved to the Southwest, made a whole host of delightful culinary discoveries, and then came back to Michigan. But there is one thing coming up, actually, in the spring. March 14th, PI Day. A number of clinics are in the United States.
Deb Polich: Pi Day!
Juli McLoone: Yes, yes. We make pies for Pi Day, and we post them on Twitter. So, I'm working with a couple of colleagues actually right now on developing our plan for this year's Pi Day, which is going to be an "un-pie" theme. So, we're inviting everybody to make something and then make an argument for why it's a pie. You want to make moon pie, Boston cream pie, empanadas, and argue for why it's a pie. So, watch Twitter for the hashtag.
Deb Polich: That'll be fun. Well, we'll try to make sure to mention that online. So, you mentioned pie. So, I've often sat there on Thanksgiving going, "Okay, so who figured out to put all these ingredients together and made this delicious, delicious thing called the pumpkin pie?" Does the collection take us there? You know, the development of any of these recipes?
Juli McLoone: I mean, it definitely can. So, I can't actually answer your question about pumpkin pie, specifically as such, other than to say it's probably a mixed. So, there's also a whole tradition of puddings, right? And so, if you can have something like a sweet potato pudding or a pumpkin pudding that may or may not necessarily be in a pie crust. You can put almost anything in a pie crust. And people have and do. And in some times and places, the pie crust is more of a container that might be more for preserving than for eating. Today, it's something we typically eat with the filling. But really, where you were going with that question was towards how the collection can document the changes in recipes and history thereof. And that's absolutely something that you can track back historically. What ingredients were appearing? How were people treating them? How were things served on the table and things like that?
Deb Polich: Well, I'll know who to come to the next time I have one of those questions as I'm sitting down to dinner. Juli, thanks so much for joining us on the show. You've given us lots to think about and to explore. And we'll look forward to Pi Day next spring. Thanks again for being on the show.
Juli McLoone: Thank you so much.
Deb Polich: That's Juli McLoone, curator of special collections at the University of Michigan's library. And find out more about Julie and the Janice Bluestein Longone Culinary Archive at WEMU dot org. You've been listening to creative:impact. I'm Deb Polich, president and CEO of Creative Washtenaw and your host. Mat Hopson is our producer. Join us every Tuesday to meet creative Washtenaw guests. Celebrating 45 years of jazz broadcasting, this is 89 one WEMU FM Ypsilanti. Public radio from Eastern Michigan University.
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