The first postcard I picked up while studying abroad was as a reminder to myself to see the Swedish film Together. The film was playing at the Irish Film Institute in Dublin and I wasn’t going to be in town to see it. The act was as innocent as that. My interest in postcards was piqued.
It wasn’t, however, until I was studying in the Netherlands that I somehow became postcard obsessed. I think this was due to fact that there were so many free postcards available – everywhere. Now I have a collection of a few hundred postcards, free and bought.
Prior to studying abroad postcards had a pretty rudimentary use for me. They were bought to send to a friend or family member. But somewhere between the hostel staying, the bar hopping, and the museum visiting, I would return home at the end of the day and find my bag full of these 3×5 cards advertising anything from water to a film festival to a many myriad of things I couldn’t always tell what exactly. It really didn’t matter what was being advertised on these free cards. The only requirement was that it caught my eye.
Soon I began picking up postcards for with purpose as I found them to have other uses than just to send to a friend. They, like the Together postcard, may be picked up for the purpose of reminding you of something, be it a place you want to visit, an event you want to attend, or of a person you want to remember.
Don’t forget they have a blank flip-side, which is perfect for writing down details that aren’t covered on the front. Or you can write a memory of the day you got a particular card. Or share with yourself a funny anecdote associated with the card or what the card represents – why you picked that one.
Postcards are also a great way to buy art cheaply, very cheaply. At the Mucha Museum in Prague, I bought a book of one hundred postcards of Alphonse Mucha’s work. I hadn’t heard of him before, but really liked his art nouveau style, and now I have a compact volume of his work.
Other postcards are used to supplement photographs of a trip, particularly in spaces where cameras aren’t allowed or were visited at night or that were covered in snow – such as Zermatt was when I popped in for a visit.
I, personally, love travel posters. I love the ones that are a combination of place, almost traditional photograph style, mixed with art. One place I hit up for a large number of postcards was the London Transportation Museum. They had a wall of postcards of their many ad campaigns. If I had the space for full sized ones and the money for it, I would have gone that route but as a student I had neither. And that’s why the postcards were perfect!
Postcards are fantastic pick ups while studying abroad and traveling. They travel well, are cheap (or free), photo collection-enhancing, “for future reference”-keeping, memory-conjuring, tactile souvenirs. For me it all started with a reminder postcard to see the film Together, which I finally saw this past year after I came across that postcard. What will be first in your collection?