UA Menus and Manuscripts [Un]class Research Historical Hower House

The University of Akron offered the Menus and Manuscripts [Un]class during the Spring 2022 semester to allow students to learn more about researching, working with archive materials and making information accessible to the public.


Image via Emily Price

Beading on a lamp in the Ladies’ Drawing Room.

By Emily Price, Copyeditor

*The author of this article is a student in the Menus and Manuscripts [Un]class. 

The University of Akron’s Dr. Hillary Nunn leads the Menus and Manuscripts [Un]class during the Spring 2022 semester. The Menus and Manuscripts course allows students to dive headfirst into the Polsky Archives and the Hower House Museum to establish context for the Hower family’s life and the role of food in it. Their research, combined with transcribing materials and completing their final projects, can make for a well-rounded experience. I have had the opportunity to participate in this course as well and explore the Hower House to learn more about the Ladies’ Drawing Room and the community of women during that time. 

Some of the course dedicates itself to transcribing the collection of recipes, menus, etc. and putting them into ContentDM, a software that houses the collection of artifacts from the Hower House Museum. Utilizing this software makes the information accessible to other researchers and keeps the information about a single artifact in one place. 

In addition to transcribing materials, students like me were also expected to create a final project to display their original research.  

Part of the course also addresses that, at times, research fails. 

Student Cassandra Isenberg branched out to study more about Elinor Hanna, a woman who used to run The Cake and Candy Institute. 

“I think one of my biggest takeaways from this course is the understanding that no matter how much you plan, organize, and research, your project will probably not go the way it was expected,” Isenberg states. 

She planned to present her findings in a candy-making class offered by UA, but it did not come to fruition. 

My own project, which originally started with uncovering more information about furniture and food in the Hower House, took a different direction toward the lives of women, fixating more on the Ladies’ Drawing Room for reference. As I mentioned in my blog post for the course, I learned that this room used to serve to provide refreshment for visiting women during the Hower family’s social events. 

Nevertheless, Isenberg believes that there are “so many historical layers to the Hower family” that can be explored by student projects that could benefit the Hower House Museum. 

“I would want students to know that no matter what their interest are, they would be able to find something to dive into while taking this class that aligns with their interests. It’s more than just food and old handwriting,” says Isenberg. 

Claw foot of a mirror in the Ladies’ Drawing Room.

Nunn knows how intimidating research in the Archives can seem. Nevertheless, she makes sure that students are making the most of their research and learning things they might not have expected.  

Nunn states how wonderful it is to see students become experts on areas that they may have been formerly unfamiliar with. 

In addition to learning more about women during the lives of the Howers, I was also introduced to more resources on campus. The Hower House Museum, for one, is a great resource to look for internships and information regarding the history of Akron. 

Linda K. Bussey is the director of the Hower House Museum. Throughout the course of our projects, she has been willing to give us tours of the Hower home and give us more specific information on our areas of interest. 

She described how some students have gotten involved with the museum by “working with the collection or providing tours.” 

“Having students involved with our museum has been a rewarding experience for those of us who work and volunteer here,” Bussey states. 

She describes how our class’s involvement has been an immense help to the Hower House Museum and hopes that “this will be the first of many more such collaborations.” 

If you want to learn more about [Un]Classes through The University of Akron, check out the [Un]Class page. 

If you want to learn more about the Hower House Museum or if you want to get involved, call 330-972-6909.