academia barilla  March 2008

A Gastronomic Library that goes beyond the Books

Our readership knows that Academia Barilla established, back in 2005, a unique [...]

Our readership knows that Academia Barilla established, back in 2005, a unique Gastronomic Library in Parma, Italy, that we often reference for cookbooks, recipes, and other Italian culinary culture highlights.

The Academia Barilla Gastronomic Library, annexed to the Academia Barilla Culinary School, is unique in its kind, and definitely is the most complete collection in the world of knowledge, history and resources for everything gastronomy.

Academia Barilla Gastronomic Library: Methaphisical Menus

The Library, also nicknamed BIGAB (acronym of the Italian BIblioteca Gastronomica Academia Barilla), counts today more than 8,000 titles and some of them are unique items, such as handwritten cookbooks or historic menus, or some books that date back to the 15th century.

All the books are indexed and included in the Italian Public Library system, and are retrievable online. But to be able to examine BIGAB’s item one has to pay a visit to the Library in Parma, which is always a very pleasant thing to do, specially after the recent remodeling and rearrangement of the Library space, which is now more comfy then ever.

Academia Barilla Gastronomic Library

Many visitors every year book their visits or just drop in during Library hours, and some of them come from abroad to perform some very specific culinary research, specially when involving historic aspects of the food culture, or very specific “long tail” niches of culinary culture.

In order to properly index the huge amount of books, menus, objects and other gastronomic treasures, BIGAB’s Curator Dott. Giancarlo Gonizzi and his team created a very unique indexing method, which is based on the general Library index code that ranges 1-9 for topics from the more general (0) to the more specific (9).

Academia Barilla Gastronomic Library As explained by Dott. Gonizzi, the BIGAB team developed a parallel indexing mode where library items are also indexed with a separate code still ranging 0-9, but on a scale of exclusively culinary and gastronomic topics.

Just to recap the excellent explanation from Dott. Gonizzi of how the indexing system works, under the 0 code are indexed more general culinary items`such as standard cookbooks, while code 1 will index all historic recipes and cuisine books, 2 is the code to retrieve all the culinary books about ingredients only, while 3 is all about Italian regional cuisine.

Code 4 is for the international cuisine, and 5 is the code to index all books dedicated to professional Chef techniques, from food conservation to cooking and preparation. Code 6 defines all books and library items dedicated to thematic cuisines such as, for example, cooking for communities, cooking for singles, the VIP cookbooks, or the cuisine of love, the session we have been browsing a lot for our Valentine’s Day recipes, or our series of aphrodisiac recipes for last year’s Valentine Day.

The code list goes of course to 9, and will talk more in the future about it – just for you to know, the indexing method is absolutely amazing; on a search for a book on “Asburgic Cuisine in Trentino” requested by a visitor, it took less then 1 minute to spot the exact location of the rare cookbook and handle the copy to the visitor for her consultation (I personally witnessed this at my latest visit to BIGAB).

Giancarlo Gonizzi, Academia Barilla

Dott. Giancarlo Gonizzi is pictured here above during a video interview at the Gastronomic Library, that we’ll publish here soon. For those who are curious, the sculpture next to him is the Guggenheim Award, offered to Academia Barilla at the end of last year by the Italian Foreign Trade Board (ICE – Istituto per il Commercio Estero) for being the Italian industrial company who invested more in culture not only in terms of sponsorships, but mostly on developing cultural activities in support of the business activity (BIGAB, of course), and for promoting Italian culture abroad.

BIGAB is not just a Library – on my latest visit last week for an interview to Dott. Gonizzi (that we’ll publish here soon), I discovered the full schedule of cultural and educational events BIGAB is involved with. Last week, the day after my visit, a meeting with approx. 80 Nutrition Science students from the University of Parma was scheduled at Academia Barilla’s Gastronomic Library. The focus of the meeting was introducing BIGAB’s Library system, and all the tools the students will be able to access for their research, thanks to a convention between Academia Barilla and the University of Parma.

A few cultural events are in BIGAB’s program for the first half of this year, such as Gusti d’Autore (Tastes of Author), an event scheduled on April 7-9, 2008, that includes literature and poetry readings about cooking, as well as food-related cinema screenings, all in conjunction with other special cultural events organized by the City of Parma. We’ll talk soon in details about Gusti d’Autore.

CIBUSOn May 6, 2008, BIGAB will be again under the cultural spotlights for the Premio Academia Barilla (Academia Barilla Award), a prize awarded by Academia Barilla to the best short movies about food and cooking. The event is organized by Academia Barilla in parallel with the leading Italian food expo CIBUS – you can be sure we will be blogging a lot more in details about it.

Other plans? We can give here a little anticipation about a Museum of Tomato, and a Museum of pasta just outside Parma… but we prefer to give you full updates about it as soon as we get more details. As always, stay tuned with Italian Food Lovers.

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