Picture Library Postcard Highlight

On the 1st of January, like many, I set my New Years resolutions.  Every year it seems that the same old resolutions crop up….spend less (failed), lose weight (TBC – I have all year so why start dieting now), use time wisely (weekend nana naps are a good use of time aren’t they?).  This year I have however thrown in a newbie….join postcrossing (www.postcrossing.com).  Three months on and I am absolutely hooked 

So what is Postcrossing?  Postcrossing is an online project that allows its members to send and receive real postcards from all over the world. The project's tag line is "send a postcard and receive a postcard back from a random person somewhere in the world!”.   Its members, also known as Postcrossers, send postcards to other members and receive postcards back from other random Postcrossers. Where the postcards come from is always a surprise¹. 

This project has meant that I have been searching the shops for postcards (Te Papa Store has some very cool post cards!). 

With all this postcard hunting I was led to Te Papa’s Collection to see what postcards of our past were like.

One card in particular amazed me, a Sewn Souvenir from France – Postcard (see below).   This postcard has a material pouch attached containing a souvenir handkerchief. The pouch has the words "1917 Souvenir de France" embroidered on the front together with an embroidered pansy flower in the top right hand and lower left hand corners. The handkerchief appears to be made of silk and is embroidered with flags of the nations, written underneath is "Souvenir d' Armentieres". The item also contains a small card depicting a young woman in military uniform - it reads 'Greetings from France".   

I wanted to find out more about this card so contacted Stephanie Gibson, Curator History.  She said that during the First World War (1914-19), French women and girls embroidered silk postcards for soldiers to send home to their wives and girlfriends.  Hundreds of thousands of men from Britain and her Allies (such as New Zealand) were stationed in France.  The anxieties of separation and distance fuelled a thriving cottage industry of postcard making.

These were no ordinary postcards.  Delicate silk embroidered with flowers, flags and messages of love and affection, were attached to card, but were obviously not robust enough to be franked and sent as normal postcards.  Instead, they were carefully sent in their own envelopes, or safely tucked into letters.  They were meant to stay pristine and beautiful, to be cherished by the recipient.

These beautiful souvenirs of France are in extreme contrast to the ugliness of the war, and show us one of the ways soldiers sought momentary respite from the horrors around them, and to keep their lives linked to those left behind.

Want to give Postcrossings a go?  Let us know by emailing picturelibrary@tepapa.govt.nz and we will send you a pack of four Picture Library postcards to get you started.