At the Hoboken Historical Museum, postcards illustrate Hudson County’s history.
“This is one of our first forays into expanding our mission to include all of Hudson County,” said Robert Foster, executive director of the Hoboken Historical Museum.
“Greetings From Hudson County: A Postcard History Then and Now” showcases postcards from all 12 municipalities. There are about 700 on display, though there are more than 5,000 in the collection, which was purchased by the museum. The postcard history began in the 1860 and ’70s. Foster says over the years the postcards evolved.
“The postcards that we have are from the golden age of postcards — that’s like 1907 to 1915 — and it just so coincides with the real buildup of Hudson County,” he said. “I liken it to, shall we say, the start of the internet and the flooding of texting that comes after that. So these postcards are kind of historic texting of the day.”
There’s also an interactive part of the exhibit called “augmented reality.” Visitors download a free app and hold their smartphone or device up to one of the postcards pictures.
“And it will take you to how the view looks now with an audio recording,” Foster said.
The majority of the postcards in the collection were mailed.
“Today, when you meet kids — you know, when we have school visits here — they don’t really have a concept of a postcard. And so, when they try to read the back, if it’s in script, young kids now are not learning script in school, so to them they’ll actually say, ‘What language is this?'” said Foster.
The museum has a mailbox from the 1880s. Visitors are encouraged to choose a postcard and write a note. They’re given a stamp, and the mail is picked up.
There a number of different types of postcards on display, including real photo postcards.
“And those cards are really special because sometimes they have little notes written into the negative, and who knows? The cards in this exhibit could be the only card that exists today,” Foster said.
Fosters says he understands why people are so fascinated by the old postcards.
“When you look at this card you go, ‘Oh, that’s what was, you know, there next to that building,’ and ‘That’s why there is a parking lot there now,’ that sort of thing. So there’s clues to the past, also,” he said.
The exhibit will remain open through the end of the year.