Digitized Postcards Depict 19th & 20th Century Historical Sites and Imagery

historical image of Union Square in NY

Photo courtesy of Digital Library of Georgia

June 3, 2021
CONTACT: Deborah Hakes, Georgia Public Library Service, dhakes@georgialibraries.org

ATLANTA–Georgia Public Library Service is pleased to announce the digitization of 535 postcards spanning the late 19th to mid-20th centuries belonging to the Moultrie-Colquitt County Library System (MCCLS). The Ellen Payne Odom Genealogy Library Postcard Collection provides online access to an important visual resource for research on the history, economic development, and culture of Georgia and the southeast.

“As more people work and study at home, shared online collections increase in value,” said MCCLS Library Information Specialist Aileen McNair, who worked on the digitization project. “As a primary source, postcards are important for all types of historical research. As a genealogist, I use postcards to help me picture the world in which my ancestors lived.” 

The collection, which includes postcards from both local and national donors over the course of nearly 20 years, depicts historical images of many famous sites around Georgia, including a former state capitol building in Milledgeville, University of Georgia’s Sanford Stadium, and coastal images from Savannah and St. Simons Island. Postcards of wartime battle sites, Confederate imagery, and residences of the formerly enslaved acknowledge these sites as longtime economic generators of Georgia’s Civil War tourism economy. 

Though this digitized archival collection documents the cultural history of Georgia, users should be aware that as a consequence of the time period in which these documents were created, some materials contain terms that are outdated and considered inappropriate or offensive for usage today. 

Postcards from across the United States and internationally are also included; notably, the collection boasts a number of Scottish postcards, originally donated to the library because of its long history as a repository for the genealogical records of local Scottish clans.

Postcards gained wide circulation in the late 19th century as a way to vicariously share visual representation of travel experiences with correspondents. This time period, often referred to as the “golden age” of postcards, depicts the evolution of postcard printing, design, and postage, as well as the medium’s gradual increase in popularity as an accepted form of communication. 

In addition to showcasing technological improvements, postcards also offer lively and engaging photographs or artistic representations of architecture and the built environment, nature, cultural experiences, art, historic events, and commercial businesses. According to the New York Public Library, “Postcards are important for researching social history as well, as they often provide authentic insights into daily activities and appearances of neighborhoods, and show material culture ‘in the vernacular’ as few other objects can.” Just as annual reports share what an organization considers its most laudable accomplishments, postcards tell researchers what significant historical events, civic achievements, and social advancements a community valued most. 

And of course, some postcards are purely sentimental, cheeky, or just for laughs.

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Georgia Public Library Service (GPLS) empowers libraries to improve the lives of all Georgians by encouraging reading, literacy, and education through the continuing support and improvement of public libraries. GPLS is a unit of the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia. This project is supported with federal Library Services and Technology Act funds administered by the Institute of Museum and Library Services through GPLS. www.georgialibraries.org #GeorgiaLibraries 

The mission of the Moultrie-Colquitt County Library is to ensure that the citizens of Colquitt County have the right and the means to free and open access to ideas and information which are fundamental to a democracy, and to protect intellectual freedom, promote literacy, encourage lifelong learning, and provide library materials and information services in a variety of formats.  The primary purpose of the Ellen Payne Odom Genealogical Library is to aid patrons as they gather and use information to trace their ancestry and to house historical and genealogical information in a variety of formats. www.mccls.org 

Selected images from the collection:

Images below can be downloaded at the links, under the “Item” tab.

Greetings from Georgia, 1930-1945

https://dlg.usg.edu/record/zgz_epogpc_mccls-pstcrd-011#item

Old State Capitol Building, Now Georgia Military College, Milledgeville, Ga, 1958-1962

https://dlg.usg.edu/record/zgz_epogpc_mccls-pstcrd-192

Sanford “Bull Dog” Stadium, Athens, Ga, 1930-1945

https://dlg.usg.edu/record/zgz_epogpc_mccls-pstcrd-114

Gathering Dulse, 1870-1917

https://dlg.usg.edu/record/zgz_epogpc_mccls-pstcrd-419

Union Square, New York, 1906

https://dlg.usg.edu/record/zgz_epogpc_mccls-pstcrd-485

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