We Need Your Postcards – New Exhibit at the Museum

Isn’t it remarkable how a simple piece of paper can connect us with the world?

Our upcoming exhibit Just a Line to Say…Postcards from the Museum’s Collection will feature historic postcards from the Museum’s collection.

Postcards have a quiet yet significant place in the history of our community. In mid-nineteenth century, postcards were an inexpensive way to send brief messages quickly to friends and family, either close to home or across the country. At the height of their popularity in the early twentieth century, postcards accompanied the tourism boom, serving as a photographic collectable in an age where camera equipment wasn’t quite commercial. The widespread movement of photographic postcards depicting idyllic scenes helped promote tourism in cities and towns across the country.

A typical photographic souvenir postcard in the Museum’s collection. This one, shows the unrealistic yet fanciful recolouring of St. Paul Street, c. 1930, looking east from Ontario Street. Postcard companies often ‘edited’ and recoloured photos to help portray the best, most beautified scenes for tourists to take home and remember. STCM 1110-N

Today, modern postcards remain an important part of the travelling experience: sending a note home from a neat place you’ve visited, either to brag, or to let those at home know you’re safe and happy, or to share some story from a neat point of interest.

Historic postcards also serve an important purpose in the twenty-first century: nostalgia. Those idyllic scenes were once meant to include in one’s souvenir postcard album or promote tourism have now become the window through which nostalgic citizens harken for simpler times, boosting the popularity of postcards once more.

While the postcard itself has a simple material culture and history, including photographic or non-photographic postcards, the debate over space for messages and space for addresses, and the type of paper used to print on, the intangible history of the postcard is more layered. A postcard can be personal, filled with significant messages, or secret meanings. It can be an impersonal souvenir, left empty on the back, but kept in remembrance of a trip. Or, a postcard can spark connection with history as local citizens search for meaningful representations of the past amongst the fast-paced and always-changing land-and-streetscapes of our modern age.

We need your help.

In addition to the nostalgia-inducing historic postcards that will be on display, we’d also really like to include modern-day postcards you’ve received, or that you sent or collected on your last or favourite trip. For those of us with the travel bug, it’s been a tough year cancelling and postponing adventures, so I hope you’ll help us reminisce about your trip, and the many adventures from the past that are documented here in the Museum’s collection.

To contribute your modern postcards to the exhibit, please reach out to us here at the Museum via email at museum@stcatharines.ca.

Adrian Petry is a Public Historian and Visitor Services Coordinator at the St. Catharines Museum & Welland Canals Centre.

Just a Line to Say…Postcards from the Museum’s Collection opens this Spring at the Museum.

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