Exhibit at McKinley museum is based on book by Kimberly Kenney and Barbara Abbott.
The newest exhibition at Wm. McKinley Presidential Library & Museum -- "Stark County Food: From Early Farming to Modern Meals" -- is more than a book by the same name hung on the walls of the museum's Keller Gallery.
Sponsored by Stark County Farm Bureau, this exhibition is based on the volume by McKinley museum Executive Director Kimberly A. Kenney and Canton Food Tours owner Barbara A. Abbott. And both the book and the exhibition are key components of the year-long collaboration of "all things food" in Stark County -- "Project EAT!"
Still, Kenney, who curated the exhibit, said artifacts displayed in the Keller Gallery exhibit illustrate only a few of the many stories in the comprehensive food text, and attempt to capture the overall concept of "Project EAT!," a collaboration that has been in the works for two years.
"The whole concept of 'Project EAT!' is to get people to think about the food they eat and how it brings people together," said Kenney. "When we put the exhibition together, I took stories that lended themselves to artifacts.
"As a result, the focus of the exhibit is on home cooking -- nostalgic things that people will remember their mother or grandmother using in their kitchens."
Sunbeam mixers come to mind, as do rolling pins and egg beaters.
"I looked at what food-related artifacts we had and used the ones I thought visitors would enjoy seeing," Kenney said.
Along one wall of the exhibition stand kitchen appliances, but they barely resemble the ones you would find in a modern kitchen.
Among the artifacts are a white long-legged "Magic Chef" stove manufactured by the American Stove Co. in the 1930s and a Gibson ice box made in 1910.
Other artifacts include a pressure cooker from the 1970s, a waffle iron from around 1910, an electric "Ice-O-Matic" ice crusher from the 1950s, a toaster oven from the 1980s, a microwave from the 1970s, a bread toaster from the 1930s, a butter churn from the 1920s and a cherry pitter from around 1900.
Also on display are a spice rack, canning jars, an apple peeler, a sausage stuffer, milk bottles, a canister set, a tea kettle, a butter mold, a pickle crock, a lunch box, and an assortment of other familiar and not-so-recognizable kitchen items.
"We have what they call a 'monitor' style refrigerator, with the motor on the top," said Kenney. "They call it a monitor because it reminded people of the Civil War ship, 'The Monitor.' This refrigerator was made in the 1930s, so it's interesting that they still would have made this connection."
Restaurant menus provide arguably the strongest local flavor to the exhibit.
"A lot of people brought in restaurant menus," said Kenney. "I put them into a big binder so visitors can thumb through them and see what was offered at area restaurants. One thing that comes to mind was sauerkraut on one of the drink menus. Beef tongue appears on a lot of the banquet menus.
"People also will be interested in seeing some of the prices."
Most of the menus are undated. But, Kenney said, one donor brought in menus obtained by a woman who wrote on the artifacts the date that she and her husband visited the restaurant, who they were with, and often what occasion occasion brought them to the establishment.
"One of my favorite things about this exhibit is our weird recipe handout," said Kenney, who explained that she copied unique recipes and they will be available to those willing to try them and post comments about their results on social media. "I'm going to try a couple myself and see how they turn out."
Unique guest registry
Kenney noted that the exhibit will offer "a little something different" in terms of a guest registry, where visitors normally sign their names when they tour a Keller Gallery exhibition.
For this exhibit, the museum will offer a guest table -- a familiar 1950s white kitchen table with red trim -- at which guests can sit and write down their recollections for other visitors to peruse.
"We're telling people to have a seat at the table and remember their own food memories, and then share them with others when they leave."
A bulletin board beside the table will be the common posting place for whatever food memories that visitors recall.
Visitors to the exhibit also will be able to take away any of 12 nutrition information sheets, provided by Abbott through Canton Food Tours, that are held in slots on a rack. The benefits of fruits and vegetables, obtaining the proper nutrition when you are a senior, and how to eat healthfully as a vegetarian are just three of the dozen fact sheet categories.
"We thought that this would offer people help in making healthful food choices," Kenney said.
Summing up food
Kenney and Abbott will hold a "Meet the Authors" luncheon event at the museum on Wednesday, the day before the official opening reception. She said that the exhibit has a more "universal" feel to it than the book, which is based on abundant local food history.
The book is available at the museum's gift shop, Kenney noted, as well as through bookstores and online booksellers.
"I used text from the book for panels in the exhibit," Kenney noted. "But I assumed that visitors will not have read the book. I look at the exhibit as a way to whet their appetite. The exhibit says to them, 'This is the kind of information you can expect to get if you read the book.' You get this high level summation of the information, but if you want to know more, well, we happen to have a book available."