postcards (680 total)
The Re-Envisioning Japan collection began in 2000 with a search for photographic images of early 20th century Japan that might bring the landscape and life of that period into sharper focus. As a result, postcards from the 1900s - 1930s that were readily available through online auctions seeded the collection. I was originally drawn to postcards as visual records of place but soon came to appreciate the many ways that they connect us to the past. Postcards are a versatile format. They encompass a variety of subgenres: snapshot news communications; souvenirs of events, people, and places; casual greetings, pen pal exchanges, or missives that are deeply personal. At least seventeen subgenres make up this object category in this collection, roughly falling into the border-crossing threads that characterize this project: e.g., tourism and travel (hotels, transportation, destinations); visual records of Japan’s presence at international and domestic expositions and exhibitions; advertising, leisure, and entertainment; social work, edification, and information; commemorative events, propaganda, and nationalistic sentiment of both foreign and domestic origin (glimpses of Japan’s rising profile in the international world order). These categories are only examples of the rich diversity that characterizes this mode of communication. Many of these postcards replicate established photographic genres, such as social “types” or prominent tourist locations emblematic of Japan; these in particular might have been collected as souvenirs. Others are notable for their personal messages, reminding us of the days when the postcard was ubiquitous as a global unit of personal communication.