Tourists have been visiting Key West and the Florida Keys since the mid-1800s, and Key West Art & Historical Society has an extensive postcard collection which documents it. Opening with a reception from 6-7 p.m. Friday, May 10, in the Bumpus Gallery at the Custom House Museum, “Wish You Were Here: Postcards From Paradise” showcases more than 130 years’ worth of vintage images taken from Key West Art & Historical Society’s archives, a repository that contains 2,000-plus collected and digitized postcards.
The exhibit will feature aesthetically engaging cards in original, reproduction and enlarged formats as well as information on the many facets of postcard collecting and the influence of postcards on social, economic and architectural history.
“Postcards are like windows into the past, windows that convey glimpses of particular places, times, emotions and sentiments,” says Society Curator Cori Convertito, Ph.D. “Postcards representing geographic locations, such as the Florida Keys, served as modestly-priced, mass-produced means of communication, and were particularly prominent during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries,” she adds.
While each card’s written and pictorial content is different, each is a portal to the cultural and social values of the time in which they were written and sent.
“They are an exceptional source of social history because they reveal what was popular or seen as important in the region where the postcard was sold,” says Convertito. “They can, in an ancestral sense, be thought of as the predecessor of today’s social media sites such as Instagram — a filtered/enhanced image alongside personal sentiments.”
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