How can the archives inspire you?
This past October, Queens College’s Special Collections and Archives and Professor John Wegner’s Design 1 class met to cultivate inspiration for the Design course’s final project: designing a suite of menu materials for imagined New York City restaurants.
The Restaurant Menu Collection, donated in 2014, includes menus from New York, New Jersey, around the country, and even the world, dating from 1938 through 2013. However, the strength of the collection lies in its New York City menus. What sets this collection apart is its emphasis on takeout and to-go menus, “underscor[ing] food habits and trends” that “give insight into the current economic and technological advances of a given community.”
While the collection is a valuable historical resource in itself, Professor John Wegner saw an additional use for it: as a site of creativity and a way for his Design 1 students to get inspired. “I wanted to collaborate with the Queens College Special Collections and Archives because it’s such a valuable resource for inspiration, documenting the rich visual history of our local community,” he explained. The collection speaks to a clear history of food habits across the five boroughs, but it also displays vibrant examples of business history, technological history, and, yes, design history. Questions like “How has the ordering process changed from phone calls to websites and apps?” and “What kind of customer is the restaurant trying to attract and how is that reflected in the design of the menu?” can be explored when browsing this collection.
In Wegner’s Design 1 class, students were asked to create an identity for a brand-new restaurant concept, complete with logotype and menu design. To jump start the creative process, he scheduled a class in the library to look at the Restaurant Menu Collection in-person, saying “As a designer, I think it’s important to have a sense of place in the world, and to be in touch with the history of your community.”
In addition to reviewing and interacting with the Restaurant Menu Collection, students also learned about what archives are and how they can use the physical and digital materials SCA collects. Art librarian Scott Davis was on hand to talk about resources for graphic designers and artists more generally, all available through the Queens College Library.
See below for several selections from students’ beautiful final portfolios!
Are you interested in utilizing archival resources in your class or encouraging archival literacy in your students? SCA can work with you to provide instruction in archives at the Queens College Library. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.