Portfolio: Katie Tote Portfolios Project Proposal

Module 6: Project Proposal

At the beginning of the semester, I had planned to use a dataset I work with at my day job at the New York State AIDS Institute. My work focuses on analyses, visualization, and presentation of HIV/AIDS surveillance data — my unit produces all of the annual surveillance reports and any numbers, statistics, and graphs of HIV/AIDS incidence and prevalence in New York State. I’m currently working on a solo research project at work looking at urban-rural disparities in the HIV care cascade over the past several decades, and was thinking that I could kill two birds with one stone and use the same analysis for a traditional research paper for work and then a fancy visualization for class. But! I’ve decided instead that I’m tired of writing about HIV (and apparently that I don’t have enough to do), so I’m pivoting to something entirely unrelated using one of the datasets Dr. Kane has suggested.

I’m going to use the New York Public Library, “What’s on the Menu?” dataset, specifically focusing on restaurants in New York City from 1850 – 1959. I don’t have a totally concrete plan yet, but here are a few questions I’d like to explore:

  • What are the most common restaurant menu items (or ingredients / ‘concepts’) in each decade? What ‘types’ of cuisine are popular, in what neighborhoods? How do restaurant trends emerge and dissipate?
  • Does the popularity of certain foods/ingredients seem to be influenced by trends in immigration? I intend to pull information on ‘country of origin’ from the U.S. Census, which is publicly available for download.
  • How does advancement in agricultural and transportation technology (refrigeration, railroad, et cetera) impact restaurant menus/trends? I’m currently doing an independent readings on agricultural history with Dr. Smith-Howard and could pull a lot of important dates or ‘turning points’ in food production from this reading list.

I’m envisioning a map of Manhattan for each decade of interest, showing immigrant density by country of origin by neighborhood, with a few selected restaurants plotted that can be expanded for more detail. Each decade ‘slide’ will include blurbs about specific popular foods and ingredients and tie them in with context of immigration and agriculture in that area.

One reply on “Module 6: Project Proposal”

That’s a good plan, and typically low-stakes projects are good for learning new skills so you feel more freedom to play around. If you’re interested in cuisine types, you’re probably going to need to take the time to add a column categorizing those yourself using your historian’s judgement–foie gras for example might be easy to categorize, but what about tomato aux croutons or applesauce or lobster?

Locations may be difficult; I assume you’ll be using the API to pull down at least some data, since the downloadable spreadsheet doesn’t include separate entries by restaurant. From a quick skim through, it looks like the place info is not consistently available, so check how much data you can actually get before you committ to this.

Otherwise your plans look pretty doable, but let me know if you run into roadblocks.

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