Monday October 26, 2015

Going Postal: Thousands of Postcards in the Marian Library

When did you last send or receive a postcard? For most of the 20th century, postcards were basically like Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook in one. In the Marian Library archives, postcards are still kickin'’ – over 20,000 of them in fact!

Why so many postcards?

Back in the day, every time a library staff member or friend traveled to a Marian shrine or church, they mailed a postcard to the Marian Library or brought one back as a souvenir. Word got around and postcards began to flood in from all over the world. Remember, at this time there was no Google (or Internet for that matter), so librarians filed them away according to location for future reference.   

Today, the Marian Library has postcards of Marian shrines from all over the world: the Notre Dame church in Pointe-Noire, Congo depicts modern French colonial architecture; another depicts one of the “Seven Man-Made Wonders of Arizona,” the chapel of the Holy Cross built into the desert bluffs; and another, depicts the Reims cathedral up in flames during World War I.

Can postcards help us connect to the past?

Yes! These everyday representations of religious sites, statues, and pilgrimage speak to religious and cultural practices, values, aesthetics, and more. (Some of them even provide a snapshot into an individual’s personal life via written communication on the back). Check out our online collection or visit the Marian Library, post haste! 

- Jillian M. Slater, Librarian/Archivist & Assistant Professor, Marian Library

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