Click to search the Andrew Heiskell Braille and Talking Book Library Skip Navigation

What's on the Menu?, Food for Thought, NYPL Labs

New Feature! Unlock Menus to Continue Editing


We've gotten a number of questions over the past week of What's on the Menu? about menus marked as "done." Do we really mean done? As in finished, vetted, archived for posterity? Fear not, we've cleared up this confusion with some new language. What we really meant to say was "under review."

On several occasions, a volunteer e-mailed us saying they'd spotted errors, or missing dishes, on menus marked as complete. I happily re-opened the menus in question (a facility only open to site administrators) and invited them to continue their work. After doing this a few times ad hoc, we decided to just add this as a feature.

Now, for any menu you find that's under review, you can click the little lock icon to its left to re-open it for further editing, correcting or transcribing. So if you are feel like donning your proofreader's glasses, we invite you to dive into the menus formerly known as finished to hunt out typos and problematic transcriptions (as ameliorated by these helpful tips), or to insert decimal points in the price fields to bring the cost of living and dining down to appropriate circa 1900 levels (as required, say, in this menu), or other tidying and correcting tasks not yet anticipated. Don't forget to re-submit the menu for review (via the button below the dishes list, left sidebar) when you're "done"!

And then what?

As is often the case in libraries, and on the always-evolving web, the work is never completely and totally done. For the menus, finishing transcription is in fact just the beginning of a long and only partially mapped out journey of data cleanup and rectification — not to mention subsequent tasks we may open up, such as the identification of sections (appetizers, desserts), categorization (breakfast menu, dinner menu), and other things still TBD.

Our philosophy all along has been to launch the project as openly and simply as possible, build a big data pile, and then to start finding solutions for navigating and improving the data. Any brave souls who want to jump in now to start polishing and tweaking are more than welcome! Please report back any common issues that you find (in the comments field below or via e-mail at

We're also racing to post a detailed Help page, much of it informed by valuable user feedback, and soon, we expect, by the forthcoming insights of menu unlockers as well. The key is in your hands!

[Jack (Key)]., Digital ID 1579834, New York Public Library

Go to What's on the Menu?


Patron-generated content represents the views and interpretations of the patron, not necessarily those of The New York Public Library. For more information see NYPL's Website Terms and Conditions.

One suggestion, and this

One suggestion, and this might be one of those easier-said-than-done things, but it would be nice if the list of dishes on the left was scrollable so you can still see the menu itself when you're looking through the list.

Good thought

Good thought, David. I'll add this to our feature ideas list. I agree, for those longer menus, the scrolling up and down must get frustrating. Thanks for the suggestion!

a bit of confusion

I know the instructions are to transcribe _exactly_ as seen but I noticed that the list of dishes on the left read the menu left to right regardless of different columns. So in column 1 a list of dishes may read: Column 1 row 1: Eggs, scrambled row 2: " fried. People are entering row 2 as is... " fried. So in the list of dishes you get: Eggs, Scrambled what ever is listed in column 2 " fried Not to mention that in the main list of ALL dishes " fried is somewhat useless. I would assume that the quote marks " indicating "as above" should be replaced with the correct word or phrase. i.e. Eggs, fried. I think this is one of the reasons you don't want to use OCR. Using a little discretion to make it make sense is the preferred option. But the instructions do say to transcribe _exactly_.

You are right!

Hi there, Your instinct about how to handle ditto marks is right on the money (and yes, this is one of the many reasons we decided not to go the OCR route). Since you posted your comment, we've added a new Help page to the site, which among other things, addresses this precise issue: Scroll down to the section "Lists, dittos and other repetition issues" > subsection: "What's the deal with the ditto?" Thanks for your feedback, and your participation in the project. We are grateful for your help!

Post new comment