Early Modern Recipes Online Collective (EMROC)

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The Early Modern Recipes Online Collective (EMROC) is a group of scholars and students creating transcriptions of manuscript recipe books written in English between 1550 and 1800. EMROC's efforts focus on making searchable, encoded versions of these texts freely available for scholars and the general public.

EMROC aims to create a centralized resource for those interested in early modern recipes. The Folger Shakespeare Library and The Wellcome Library for the History of Medicine are among the largest repositories for recipe manuscripts; EMROC's efforts will allow users to search texts from these two libraries, as well as many other collections, through a single interface. Such search capability allows users without access to these manuscripts, and without training in paleography, to uncover information about early modern cookery and medical care. Increased access to these texts will also allow researchers to take up questions about the era's social structure and material culture, spurring new modes of inquiry into subjects like domestic work, farming and gardening practices, markets and trade, and family networks.

The EMROC project's emphasis on pedagogy makes it distinct from many transcription efforts. Students at both the undergraduate and graduate levels adopt texts and use them to hone their paleography skills. The text of each book is triple keyed, using the Folger Shakespeare Library's DROMIO software, and undergoes a thorough vetting process before becoming part of the larger collection.

Project Beginnings and Pedagogical Mission:

EMROC was formed in 2012, when a group of scholars began transcribing recipes through the Textual Communities project at the University of Saskatchewan. After talking with members of the EMMO team at the Folger and recognizing many similarities between the two projects, EMROC began migration to the DROMIO platform used by EMMO in 2015.

The members of the original steering committee hoped to pool their efforts and resources to make early modern manuscript recipes more available to scholars and the public. The handwriting in these recipe collections often proves a barrier to students and scholars alike. Because these books often contain multiple hands and archaic scripts, each text must be transcribed by a human rather than scanned and rendered searchable through computerized Handwritten Text Recognition.

The painstaking, individualized attention required by each collection provided an opportunity for students to take up the scholarly work of transcription. Their work spanned multiple campuses, as the EMROC steering committee incorporated recipe transcription into their coursework. As interest in the project grew, other instructors joined EMROC efforts to bring transcription to classrooms. In the first three years of the project, more than one hundred students contributed to EMROC's transcriptions, and their names are attached to the texts they have created. In one day alone – 7 October 2015 – ninety-three transcribers from five countries (Australia, Canada, Germany, U.K., U.S.) contributed to EMROC's efforts as part of the group's first transcribathon.

Selected Events and Presentations:

May 13, 2016: Panel at the Manuscript Cookbooks Conference at Fales Library and Special Collections, New York University.

April 1, 2016: Roundtable discussion, Folger Digital Agendas II: Roundtable: Scholarly Conversations and Collaborations at the Renaissance Society of America, Boston

March 24, 2016: Shakespeare Association of America Digital Salon, New Orleans

October 7, 2015: Transcribathon focusing on Rebeckah Winche's receipt book (Folger MS V.b.366) in conjunction with Early Modern Manuscripts Online (EMMO) at the Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, DC.

June 20, 2015: “Teaching Early Modern Recipes in the Digital Age” workshop at Attending to Early Modern Women conference, Milwaukee

May 22, 2015: Presentation at the Women’s History in the Digital World, Bryn Mawr


Steering Committee Members:

Rebecca Laroche, University of Colorado, Colorado Springs
Elaine Leong, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science
Jennifer Munroe, University of North Carolina Charlotte
Hillary Nunn, The University of Akron
Margaret Simon, North Carolina State University
Lisa Smith, The University of Essex
Amy Tigner, University of Texas-Arlington (2012-2018)

Folger/EMMO liaisons:

Heather Wolfe, Curator of Manuscripts
Paul Dingman, EMMO Project Manager 2014 -2017