Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Cataloguing postcards

Towards the end of the nineteenth century and the early twentieth century postcards were a popular method of communication providing a wide range of images of places, people and events. Reduced postage and several deliveries of mail a day made postcards a quick and efficient way to relay business information and to send messages to friends and family. Indeed postcards functioned more like faxes or emails and during their heyday, between 1901 and 1915, people interchanged several messages a day.

Many historical societies have collections of postcards - some showing scenes of their town and surrounding area while others were collected by families in the area and can be a valuable source of social history.

The RHSV has a collection of more than 3,000 postcards. Some of postcards produced prior to 1955 can be found online in the Postcards Online database.

In 2002 the Royal Historical Society of Victoria held an exhibition - Travellers' Tales: Photography & the Proliferation of the Postcard an exhibition showcasing the range of postcards held in the RHSV collection, particularly those produced in the second half of the nineteenth century and early twentieth century. Themes in the exhibition included Promoting regional Victoria, Promoting Melbourne, Victorian landscape, People and landscape, Pioneering life, Promenading on the pier, Sport, Hotels and guesthouses, Disasters and Decorating postcards (for Christmas). An online exhibition based on the 2002 exhibition was created in 2007.

Postcards can be catalogued in the same way as photographs. Descriptive fields can include Registration (Accession) number, Object name [Photograph], Title, Brief description, Subjects, Photographer (may include company producing the postcard), Date made, Size, Location as well as the usual fields relating to donor, condition etc.

In the brief description describe the scene in the postcard. At the RHSV we are also including a transcription of the message on the postcard.

As well as descriptive subjects for people, places, buildings, objects etc in the postcard, subjects can also include the name of the person/ people on the back postcard, if full name known, and any themes that you might like to use to group similar postcards. For example many postcards were sent home during the the First World war so World war, 1914-1918 could be a heading. Many postcards were kept in scrapbooks so if this is the case the name of the collector could be a subject heading.

If the datastructure has an Address field and the full address of a building is known this information can be included - town / suburb, street, number.

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