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IUB Archives

Posting About Postcards

On September 7, the IU Arts and Humanities Council commenced First Thursdays for the 2023-2024 academic year. The First Thursdays program started in 2016 as a way to connect students, various campus departments and units, and the greater Bloomington community through the atmosphere of an arts festival. IU Archives typically hosts a booth at least once or twice annually, but we especially like participating in September First Thursdays because they capture the enthusiasm and frenzy of the new school year.

We also recognize that this can be a challenging transition period for many folks, especially those who are new to campus. Excitement, nervousness, trepidation, and homesickness are all normal feelings around this time of year too. With that in mind, we wanted to show First Thursday attendees that they may not be home, but they are welcome here at IU…a home away from home! We provided postcards featuring images from our photograph collections, each one conveying a “welcome home” theme. Festival attendees could fill out the postcards with their own messages and address them to family and friends. Here are the images that we selected:

Three incoming freshmen stand across from an uperclassman in front of a dormitory building. Between them stands a sign that reads "Welcome to the best years of your life."
Incoming students greeted at Smithwood Hall, today known as IU’s Read Center, 1956. Indiana University Archives P0022904
A group of dancers wearing warmup leotards hold a dynamic pose for a photographer (not pictured).
African American Dance Company, circa 1988. Indiana University Archives P0091127
Black and white historic photograph of Arthur Metz and Ed Daniels in their dorm room. The wall of their room includes a wide range of university pennants from IU, Wester, and Chicago as well as posters.
Room of IU students Arthur Metz and Ed Daniels, 1905. Indiana University Archives P0022192

After the event, we collected all 152 (!) inscribed postcards and mailed them on the attendees’ behalf. When we prepared them for the post office, we were struck by the diverse locations to which these messages were headed. We created a simple spreadsheet to record the city and state, province, or country for each postcard address. We then used Google Maps to import the data and display each location as a pin. The whole process, from transcribing the geographical locations to completing the map, only took about an hour. The result is a visual representation of the postcards’ journeys to places near (16 postcards were sent to Bloomington addresses) and far (Yangon, Myanmar was the farthest—8,558 miles from Bloomington). We think it’s a great demonstration of how GLAM (galleries, libraries, archives, and museums) can take a simple gesture–distributing postcards at a local festival and mailing them on the attendees’ behalf—and connect people through time and place.

A screenshot shows a map of the earth with pins scattered across locations, most in North America.

You can check out the map for yourself HERE. The next First Thursdays festival will be October 5, 5-8pm at the IU Arts Plaza. In the meantime, here are some photos from the September 7 festival, courtesy of IU Libraries Communications!

A decorative birdcage with a cut-out sign reading "CARDS" sits on a table. The birdcage is full of postcards.
Student with dark hair seated at a table writing a postcard.

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