Wish you were here? … Or back then?

Today’s post comes from one of our Archives Assistants, Vicky, highlighting some of the postcards available in Local Studies …

We can use our mobile phones to take a photo of anything which takes our fancy, anytime, anywhere; then send it along with a short, perhaps, witty text to someone the other side of the world, all at the push of a button. Minutes later there can be a response, whether that’s an emoji or text speak.

So, are we in danger of killing off the humble hard copy postcard that has played such a part in capturing social history from the mid-19th century onwards? Especially as a more personalised digital version can also vanish forever, by accident or design, with another push of a button.

‘Saucy’,’ Kaleidoscope’ and ‘Hold To Light’ are just some of the postcard types our predecessors created on a plethora of wonderfully tactile surfaces – glossy card, linen, copper, coconut fibre, etc. One can only imagine how many of the scenic, panoramic variety were and are still being created for a beautiful area like the Peak District alone.

Deltiologists (serious postcard collectors) can seek examples published by a particular company or a specific artist, even ones which belonging to a particular decade. Others combine their philatelic interest searching for that elusive, rare stamp or postmark. Calligraphers and graphologists home in on handwriting styles and a lexicographer may find delight in the linguistics of ‘postcardese’.

These bits of card also concentrate the mind on simple changes in locales as time passes; street furniture, benches, paving and lamp standards may evolve or disappear completely. Also, promotional cards featuring long gone manufacturers or heavy industries prove popular.

Even health services got in on the act …

… with the mix of electric and water treatment at Devonshire Hospital, Buxton.

Sometimes individuals or groups of people appear on postcards, which can highlight the fashions of the era depicted. If a name can be connected to any of them, an Ancestry search on backed up with local history resources can show why they were so important within a specific community.

Dear Marie
I think I will wait until we come home for the money.
We are having a very nice holiday, though very quiet – It has cleared up, & the scenery about is very pretty.
According to the head & post stones on “Little John’s grave” he must have been a terrible length.

All things considered, postcards can be a much-overlooked source for historical research. Come and see if you can find some of your favourite Derbyshire places within our Local Studies collection.

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