Development of the Menu Collection
Although the department had been sporadically collecting menus since its founding in 1967, the purchase of the Bohn-Bettoni Collection spurred UNLV Special Collections on to pursue the collection of additional modern menus to aid in the teaching of courses for the fledgling Hotel College, founded at UNLV in 1969. The department’s staff would go on to collect hundreds of additional menus, many of them winners of the National Restaurant Association’s annual menu design competition. In later years, the department would receive menus from donors all over the country and from Libraries staff who were eager to add to the collection.
Private menu collections were also received from noted local restaurateurs, chefs, food critics, and authors. Notable donors have been Muriel Stevens, columnist and food editor for the Las Vegas Sun, who also hosted celebrity food programs on local television and radio, and Vern Lanegrasse, the “Hollywood Chef,” a Los Angeles food columnist, radio, and television host. A few of the more elaborate menus made from expensive materials were purchased. Menus in the collection represent a vast number of restaurants that vary by cuisine, price range, and geographical area. It also includes dining menus from trains, airlines, and ships, as well as local and national banquets.
Not surprisingly, some of the most prized and popular menus in this collection are those representing well-known restaurants in the great hotels of Las Vegas that vanished years ago when their respective hotels were imploded or closed. Beyond their nostalgic value, these menus illustrate changes in dining on the Las Vegas Strip over the years and provide evidence of a gourmet food culture that existed long before the first “celebrity chef” set up shop in a Las Vegas hotel and casino resort during the 1990s.