NYPL Labs is harnessing the power of library patrons to catalog its extensive collection of historical restaurant menus. The collection has over 40,000 items, all with different fonts and formats, and with multiple entries that make OCR problematic. The collection covers the past 170 years.
The collection is prohibitively expensive to catalog by the library staff, so NYPL labs is using crowdsourcing to transcribe the contents of each menu. Users record each dish on a menu, and once complete, each menu is vetted for accuracy, and then added to the archive. Scholars, history buffs and foodies can search by dishes to get an idea of what people were eating and how much they paid.
Progress to date:
As of June 23, 2011, there have been 388,315 dishes transcribed from 7,297 menus.
Other interesting digital projects by NYPL labs include:
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