Course Spotlight: Food & Museums

Got Food? Got History? Go Public.

Food and Museums (ML623), Fall 2023


In Food and Museums (4 cr), we examine food-related displays and programming from

museums, living history museums, and folklore/folklife programs, as well as culinary

tourism offerings, “historical” food festivals, and food tours. Our goal is to compare

different approaches that use food to teach the public about food, history, cultural

heritage, science, art, even contemporary issues such as sustainability. How do we best

engage the public? How do we demonstrate the relevance of food as a historical subject?

How can we use food programming to connect our audience to issues that are critical

today—the future of food movements, for example, or the preservation and

understanding of cultural difference? We will consider how to engage the public in

different venues using food, material culture, media, and sensory experience.


This is a project-based course involving experiential and hands-on learning opportunities.

Students will design and install an exhibit using static objects. We will take a walking

tour of Jewish and Latinx communities in Chelsea, MA, and students will then design a

food-centric overlay to the tour. At Old Sturbridge Village, MA, a living history museum,

students will investigate the historical buildings and interpretive food programs,

including a behind-the-scenes visit, to consider how the missions of museums intersect

with the practicalities of using food for interpretation. Students will have the opportunity

to conduct interviews with immigrant cooks for use in an online exhibit related to food,

history, and culture. Finally, we plan to take a food tour with Bites of Boston to see how

neighborhood restaurants, grocery stores, and food businesses can serve as the focus of

cultural and historical programming. For the final project, student groups will design and

then lead us on their own food tour of Boston’s North End.


For more information, contact

Hope you will join us!

Home Cooks of the Merrimack Valley: Food and the Immigrant Experience in Lowell, Massachusetts.

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