A different kind of archive

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February 7, 2015 by carolinetanski

“One of my favorite components of the archive is the collection of old menus and drinks lists. Impeccably illustrated in the Art Deco style, they give a flavor of what the well-heeled patrons of the Jazz Age were enjoying in between dancing at the Empire Room and Starlight Roof.” —Luke Spencer, “The Long Lost Archives of New York’s Most Glamorous Hotel”

I sometimes run into archived menus in the course of my work, and Luke Spencer’s fascination is one I share. There’s something intimate about knowing what people were eating at a given time. Menus are a direct look at fashions, priorities, typography, and economics. Should they happen to be beautifully designed, all the better.

Spencer’s article is an exploration of the archives of the Waldorf-Astoria, which were apparently hidden in a walled-off secret chamber for years. Well worth a read for the glimpse into the lives of the movers and shakers who frequented the hotel in its first years.

From the archives of the Waldorf-Astoria. Photo by Luke Spencer (not originally, of course, but in this reproduction).

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