Food History @ exploreAT!

Students inquired and documented the history of food in everyday life. 

food, history, food culture

The project overview

Area of Science: Culture and Art
Location: Austria
Used Devices: with PC/Mobile
Equipment of citizen scientists: Computer with internet access, camera and/or smartphone and/or scanner
Activities of citizen scientists: observing, collecting, mapping, analysing, playing
Suitable for: Youngsters
Project duration: 01.04.2019 - 05.07.2019
Time to join in: 01.04.2019 - 05.07.2019
Expenditure of time: Ask questions, take pictures, document results: 30 minutes; digitalise, upload and tag pictures: 10 minutes; Discussion of results at school: 1 hour

Project objective

We are confronted with food several times a day. Thus, food as a topic represented an easy entry for students to get in touch with history and historical research. When grandparents dig out handwritten recipes, when parents talk about the school snacks they used to eat at school or when students take pictures of old kitchen equipment, students learn how close history and the past can be. Based on comparisons made during the project participation, it became clear that products, production processes and preparation methods, as well as our behaviour in regard to food, have changed only within a few decades.

A research group at the Austrian Centre for Digital Humanities is engaged in a multi-year project investigating cultural references in an international context by means of a historical linguistic data collection. A special emphasis lies on the topic of food and drink. Here, also contributions of students to the Food History Topotheque, a thematic online archive, were considered and analysed. 

Students collected oral history as well as written historical sources and documents related to food history and food culture by, for example, interviewing their families and friends. The collected sources and documents were then uploaded to the Food History Topotheque and tagged. Historical sources were for example written interviews with family members, pictures of old kitchenware or cutlery from grandparent's table drawers but also scans from an old handwritten recipe.  Students also tagged documents which were already uploaded by others to the Food History Topotheque.  In addition, students had the possibility to complete a questionnaire (download on the project website) on their research activities to collect some extra points for the Citizen Science Award 2019. 

The scholars at the Austrian Academy of Sciences also offered workshops for school classes on jointly developed topics in order to discuss the findings as well as results and embed them in a scientific context. School classes earned extra points for participation in a workshop. 

What happened to the contributions of citizen scientists?

All historical sources and documents were uploaded to the Food History Topotheque and were immediately available to the general public. Furthermore, the contributions and observations uploaded to the Food History Topotheque were also analysed by the research group at the Austrian Academy of Sciences looking at cultural references of food in an international context. 


How are winners being determined
A jury, which consists of representatives from schools, archives and the Austrian Academy of Sciences, will evaluate the contributions.  The winners will be announced at the festive ceremony on 19 November 2019. 

Cash prizes for three school classes: 
1st  prize: 1,000 euros 
2nd prize: 750 euros 
3rd prize: 500 euros 

Participating and supporting institutions


Alexander Schatek, ICARUS

Eveline Wandl-Vogt, Austrian Academy of Sciences

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