Course Spotlight: Food and Public History

Got Food? Got History? Go Public.

Food and Public History (ML623), Spring 2019

Food and Public History students watching a demonstration on chocolate at Old Sturbridge Village, 2018

In Food and Public History ( 4 cr), we will examine interpretive foodways programs from museums, living history museums, folklore/folklife programs, as well as culinary tourism offerings, “historical” food festivals, and food tours. Our goal is to compare different way to teach the public about history or cultural heritage using food, and teach the public about the history of food. How do we engage the public? How do we demonstrate the relevance of food as both a historical subject and as a topic of interest today? Through different approaches to public history, can we connect our audience to issues that are so critical today—the future of food movements, for example, or the preservation and understanding of cultural difference? How can we successfully engage the public, whether through displays, tours, or interactive/sensorial experience?

Bites of Boston Food History Tour with Gastronomy graduate Laurel Greenfield, 2018.

Students will have the opportunity to hear from several experts in historical interpretation, public history, and food history programs. We will be taking field trips to area museums and food history walking tours in Boston. These visits will serve as case studies, allowing students will examine the process of creating mission statements, interpretive goals, and entrepreneurial offerings, as well as different methods of communicating with the public. This is also a project-based course involving experiential learning and hands-on learning opportunities. Student projects will include creating proposals for food history tours in the North End and proposing a food-related exhibit. Finally, student will participate in a semester-long group project, entitled Home Cooks in the Merrimack Valley. The project will include several stages of work, including background research, drafting a project proposal, drafting a grant proposal, drafting a script and proposal for the Boston University Institutional Review Board (IRB), and fieldwork (interviewing home cooks from a range of cultural and ethnic backgrounds), transcribing those interviews, and then creating or adding to an online exhibit.

Hope you will join us!

For more information, contact

MET ML 623, Food and Public History, will meet on Tuesday evenings from 6:00 to 8:45 PM, starting on January 22, 2019. You can register here.

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