Tulane VISTA Blog

Fighting Poverty with Passion

Field Report: Southern Food and Beverage Museum

Just before the Holidays SoFAB opened a new exhibit “Italians in Louisiana” curated by our intern from Tulane, Melanie Rizzo. Melanie researched the influence that Italian immigrants had on Creole cuisine. This exhibit, not only about food, tells the important immigration and labor (mainly in the sugar cane fields) history that many people may not be familiar with. It was exciting to see all of her hard work (researching, writing, collecting artifacts) from the past semester come together into a display, a tangible story for all visitors to learn from.

It reminds me why I like museums so much, because they are a place to tell and hear stories, particularly those stories that may not make it into the school history textbooks. As one of the only museums dedicated solely to food history, a lot of the artifacts that we have might have otherwise been thrown away because there isn’t really any other place for them to be housed. The importance of such objects may not be initially realized. Without much thought it can be easy to say “it’s just a grill/milk bottle/meat grinder/apron”, but with careful research by the curators, who present the stories behind the artifacts it becomes clear that these objects are important parts of the traditions we hold dear. The stories they tell are about more than food, as food culture reveals so much insight about us as people and life in this region of the country.

As 2012 begins we are calling on folks around us to curate exhibits to tell the food stories they find. In our new location (set to open in April 2013) we are planning an exhibit for each of the Southern states about the food history, culture and practices unique to that state. The volunteer state curators will seek out stories and objects and use them to create the exhibits. We’re trying not to display just one “expert” narrative. It’s important that the stories come from a variety of voices, which is why we are putting the call out there to YOU and your family or friends! Food is something we can all relate to, and we all sure do know at least a little something about it.

Lucy Rosenbloom

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Notes from the field from the AmeriCorps VISTA team at Tulane University.

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