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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

What's on the Menu?

The New York Public Library (NYPL) is taking on the task of making their collection of 40,000 menus -- yes, menus; historical menus that have been archived by the library -- more easily accessible and searchable by their user base ("historians, chefs, novelists, and everyday food enthusiasts").  However, this is extremely time-consuming, and it has to be done manually, so they've turned to the general public to see if they can get a hand in transcribing the menus.  Er, many hands.

How cool is that?

To quote the NYPL information page:

So just transcribe, and presto?

Well, the data will need some additional cleanup in order for our search engine to handle synonyms, spelling variants, faceting, all that good stuff, but hopefully you’ll start to get a palpable sense right away of what you're helping to build. Every transcribed item instantly becomes part of a searchable index, which allows you to much more nimbly trace dishes, ingredients and prices across the collection. We’ll be blogging and tweeting about interesting discoveries that come up along the way. We also hope eventually to offer some fun visualizations of the data.

Faceting!  Searchable index!  Visualizations of data!  Be still my little librarian heart.

To lend a hand, visit the transcribing page.  

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