One of my first library jobs after completing my Grad Dip was at the William Angliss Institute. For those who don't know it, the William Angliss Institute in Melbourne is a training institution that specialises in food and hospitality courses. They specialise in vocational education programs, but also conduct a range of short courses for enthusiastic amateurs :)

There were two main perks to working at the William Angliss Institute Learning Resource Centre (Library). One was ready access to the Bakeshop, which is open to the public during term and serves food made by students at very good prices (I especially loved the work of the patisserie students!). The other perk was access to the amazing library collection.

I love cookbooks. At last count, according to LibraryThing, I have 218 cookbooks and books about food or drink, not including the shelves full of food magazines. So it's no exaggeration to say that I was in cookbook heaven at William Angliss.

But there was another part of the William Angliss Institute collection that was even more special, and that was the menu collection. This amazing collection of ephemera is truly one of a kind. The menus are mostly Australian, and are a valuable study resource for students who are learning how to design their own menus. They also provide a unique understanding of how food trends and menu design have changed over the last 100 years.

When I was at William Angliss, the menus were housed in filing cabinets and there were real issues emerging around preservation. A digitisation program was just beginning while I was there, and I was very glad to discover recently that not only have the menus been digitised, but many of them have also been made available online for anyone to view (Note: as far as I can tell, the digitised files are images only and therefore not accessible to those using screen readers).


The online menu collection includes restaurant menus, hotel menus, transport menus, festival menus, military menus and more. I really love the transport menus, which includes over 20 Qantas menus and more than 50 P&O Cruises menus. I think this October 1963 cruise menu is my favourite :)

The other William Angliss Institute special collections are described HERE. Some are physical collections, such as the Fuller collection of books on wine, distilling and brewing. But there are some other digital collections too, including the Zimmerman Book, which is a sort of historic scrapbook of menus and articles. Every scanned image in the Zimmerman Book can be clicked on and enlarged individually. The William Angliss Institute also has a collection of oral histories on their website. Their annual special collections brochures are also available online, and provide information about what's happening in the William Angliss special collections each year, including new additions of rare books to the Culinary Research Collection, and some gorgeous photos of ephemera.


If you're interested in the history of food, and dining out in particular, you will love checking out these collections. Many thanks to the William Angliss Institute for making some of these treasures available online for us to enjoy.

Photo credits to William Angliss Special Collections.