The Postal Museum reveals 151 years of the British postcard in a new exhibition opening April 2021

2020 marked the 150th anniversary of the British Postcard. On 1 April 2021, The Postal Museum will open a new exhibition, Wish You Were Here, celebrating the iconic role the postcard has played in connecting people for more than a century and a half. The exhibition was originally scheduled for 2020 but was delayed due to the pandemic.

Postcard of South Sands at Scarborough, early 1900s © The Postal Museum

The British postcard’s history dates back to 1870, when it became an innovation of its time, opening new and faster correspondence for everyone in Britain. Postcards were used to send secret messages of love, to boost morale for soldiers at war and to boast from holidays near and afar.

Exhibition highlights will include:

  • The first British postcard from 1870; a pre-paid postcard template with a blank front which sparked the public’s obsession for rapid communications.
  • Early 20th century illustrated postcards from Harry to his sweetheart Olive with hidden messages in the stamps.
  • Correspondence by Rifleman Harry Brown that captures the First World War through the postcards he sent home to his mother.
  • On loan from Kirklees Museums and Galleries original artwork produced by Bamforth & Co Ltd featuring classic seaside postcards and those deemed inappropriate for sale. 
  • Contemporary art where the postcard acts as the inspiration or the medium for artists such as Francesca Colussi Cramer.

Visitors will be invited to reflect on the many guises of the postcard across themes including romance, First World War correspondence, the great British seaside, contemporary art and the postcard in a digital age.

They will be asked to reflect on whether the postcard has lost its place in the modern age of even more instant communication, or if it will undergo a rebirth, as people make a move to reclaim the emotional connection a postcard can deliver.

Exhibition Curator Georgina Tomlinson said:

“We really want our visitors to be curious about the future of the postcard. An innovation of its day, people became obsessed with sending and collecting postcards – they documented the significant and mundane of everyday life much like social media today. We hope the exhibition will evoke both a sense of nostalgia and invite our visitors to think about the different ways they connect with friends and family and how that might have been influenced by this innovation in communication from 1870.”

The exhibition will be accompanied by events throughout 2021 at The Postal Museum and online. Details to be announced soon.

Wish You Were Here: 151 Years of the British Postcard

1 April 2021 – 2 January 2022 (opening subject to COVID-19 restrictions)

Admission included in the ticket price for The Postal Museum (£16 online)