Browse Exhibits (217 total)

DS Hold to Light Post Cards

This exhibit showcases a group of postcards sold to the Florida State Univeristy Rhetoric and Composition program by a local Tallahassee resident. The postcards came to us bound by two thick, rotting rubberbands. Taped to the top card and written in red marker was "Hold To Light" and the price of these 22 cards, $125.00.

Is is the cards bound by those two rubberbands that are  displayed in this exhibit. As you will see, however, they are not all true hold to light cards. Our choice to exhibit them as such is an explicit recognition of the hands through which these cards have passed and the role that each set of hands has had in the construction and reconstruction of the artifacts that we are digitally representing here. 

Real Photo Post Cards

This exhibit features images of a number of real photo postcards and explores what exactly this terminology means. 

Photo-sensitive printing paper was developed by the Eastman Kodak Company (EKC, below) in 1903, and shortly thereafter a pocket Kodak camera allowed for the creation of the photo postcards discussed in this exhibit. 

One of the biggest focuses of this exhibit is on the dating and identification of different types of real photo cards, which can oftentimes be identified based simply on viewing an image or series of letters (which are often morphed into a graphic design logo of sorts) found in or around the box for the stamp on the back of the card. Some common letters found on real photo cards in this exhibit are:

  • AZO (used 1904-1940s, depending on what shapes accompany the letters)
  • EKC (used 1939-1950)
  • EKO (used 1942-1970)

For a full list of the lettering used on real photo cards, see this table. The table also provides approximates date for when each lettering was used.

Another way to determine whether or not you have a real photo card is to use a magnifying glass or microscope to look at the image on the card. If the card is composed of tiny dots (similar to those seen in newspaper cartoons or the work of Roy Lichtenstein), then it is not a real photo card. This is because the images on real photo cards are produced in a dark room using the negative to cast the image onto photo-sensitive paper. Other cards, in contrast, are printed and that process leaves tell-tale signs. The tiny dots mentioned above are left behind by modern printers; however, older printing techniques (such as wood block printing) don't leave this dots and can be harder to distinguish from real photo cards. If you look at the border of two different colors on a card and find that the line is fairly sharp and doesn't feature dots, then chances are you have a real photo card. 

Of course, the final indicator that you've found a real photo card are the words, "Real Photo," or "Real Photo Postcard," which many companies print on the back of real photo cards. But of course the detective work is, in my opinion, more fun.

Places of Worship

Postcards of various places of worship. Images of churches, temples, and cathedrals provide numerous examples of visual rhetoric, which are examined here from the standpoint of their architecture, relationship to communities, and monumental status.


Personalities aren’t just people. When we look at a photo of a famous figure, we see more than just a face. Their image and names carry associations to narratives and myths disseminated through media and popular culture. These narratives become common knowledge and their pervasiveness can reach such a level that the subject loses, in the viewer’s eyes, his or her conventionality and becomes a far greater, more abstract figure, a personality. In its most abstract form, a personality need not be a particular person as long as the image fits the narrative and possesses the elements to which it can be associated to a widespread myth.

Perception of a Solitary Landmark

The Eiffel Tower is one monument that is never physically or drastically altered, however various portrayals can change the way one may perceive it. Perspective is a vital contributing factor to the way people consume and develop feelings towards a person, place, or subject. Post cards can often serve as memoirs of a vacation or a loved place. Post cards of the Eiffel Tower can depict the historic landmark using many different visuals, color schemes, or mediums of photography according to the way the consumer chooses to view or remember it. The Eiffel Tower can also be portrayed differently according to the time period by which the photo or painting was taken or created. 

Visions of the World

Since the mid-1800s and the birth of the industrial revolution, World's Fairs have been prominent events highlighting the progress of technology and celebrating the national identities of participating governments. In this historical archive, we look at postcards from the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair and the 1933 Chicago World's Fair, in order to analyze the inherent messages of the selected objects. In part due to the accelerating rate of technological progress and the shifting political perspectives of the twentieth century, we look to explore the subtle changes in perspective that might be seen when comparing postcards from each event. In particular, we pay attention to depictions of humans within the illustrations and the shifting architectural trends that are emblematic of deeper societal changes and the building scientific narrative of ever-increasing progress.

Patriotism in America

Red, white, and blue are more than just the colors. Combined, these three colors unite the people of the powerful United States of America. Though seen in different environments, the use of the American flag and its colors can be tied together, creating a bigger meaning. The thirteen stripes in white and red represent the thirteen British colonies that declared independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain. The fifty stars in the blue rectangle represent the fifty states in the US, while the blue rectangle itself represents the union. This strong bond of colors shows how much strength and love we have for our country. Patriotism has and continues to play a large role in our society.

Revived Ruins, Ideological Affiliations, and Overlapping Culture: Postcards Commemorating Ancient Greek Architecture and the American Adoption of the Same

Travelers love ruins. Ruins, though broken, weathered, and worn by time, are symbols of cultural power that commemorate the past that has become a pivotal part of our modern cultural foundation.

The West is a cultural bricolage of ancient conventions, an assemblage of the reformed habits, beliefs, and features of societies and civilizations that once existed. In the United States, for instance, we have assimilated features of Ancient Greek philosophy and political thought into our political and cultural environment (namely their innovation of democracy), we appreciate Ancient Rome for its staggering example of effective empire-building strategy, and in our modern cultural and artistic tastes we can easily spot traces and holdovers from the ecclesial art of the middle ages.

Americans have adopted many Greek architectural features specifically into buildings with important intellectual, cultural, and governmental affiliations. Is this an associative trend which speaks volumes about American appreciation and respect for these bygone periods? What kind of philosophical and epistemolgical associations with these cultures is American architecture trying to assert?

The following postcards: (1.) commemorate a significant location, (2.) help the card-consumer(s) create travel memories, and (3.) help the card-receivers imagine the travel experiences their contact(s) have had. The location, rendered and recorded visually on the card, marries itself to the travel experience of the card-buyer upon its purchase, and even more so should the buyer choose to use the card and add their own text, their own invention, to the extant knowledge material of the card. And the recipient uses the information s/he finds on the card to construct a moment in their minds, the moment that the card-sender experienced. 

We may not initially notice classical or neo-classical architecture when we visit these significant places (and document our travels to these places, via postcard), but as westerners, and especially as Americans, we can't help but understand, at least unconsciously, the symbolic significance of the classical and neo-classical styles.

Planes by Post: Transportation in Post Cards

Since the inception of postcards into the public arena in the mid-19th century, various methods of transportation have been the the subjects of postcards. These postcards, then, can be seen to document the history of transportation in a way different than any other text documenting the story of various transportation methods. 

In this exhibit we explore the way that post cards treat airplanes, though many other modes of transportation have been heavily featured on postcards in the past century. A fairly noticeable divide appears between images or illustrations of planes used in war or for military purposes and those that represent a more commercial side of the airline industry. Therefore, this exhibit has been divided into two sections: one discussing post cards featuring military planes and another dealing with postcards that make use of commercial airplanes and travel. Even cards within the same category (war planes or commercial planes) use images and the post card medium to perpetuate different messages and ideas; several of those ideas are explored and analyzed in this exhibit. This, in turn, demonstrates the wide versatility of postcards.

Even by examining these two different styles of postcard, one can see a distinct change in audience and message behind the cards; a change reflective, perhaps, of the era in which each card was made or used. 


Lowe, James L. Standard Postcard Catalog. Ridley Park, PA: Deltiologists of America, 1982. Print.


This exhibit explores the romantic postcards included in the FSU Card Archive. Loved ones were frequently separated for long periods of time early in the 20th century (most notably around World War I), and this came during a time when postcards were booming. There are all sorts of romantic postcards, so we've broken down ours into three different categories: daydreaming, sharing a special moment, and humorous cards.