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"Lost New York in Old Postcards"
2001-08-11 until 2001-11-25
Museum of the City of New York
New York, NY, USA United States of America

Walk into most antique stores or flea mar-kets and you are likely to find postcard collectors sifting through boxes of cards featuring famous and infamous images of American life. Traditionally used as a means of communication by visitors and tourists, postcards have come to be valued in their own right as objects of historical significance and artistic merit. On August 11, 2001, the Museum of the City of New York will present Lost New York in Old Postcards, an exhibition of over 170 post-cards documenting life in the City from the turn of the century to the mid-1950s, the years in which hand-colored postcards were produced.

Today, as in previous times, postcards serve as a means of communication. For collectors, historians, and artists, however, postcards take on a broader meaning and are often viewed as a miniature art form. As an art form, the image on the front of the postcard rather than the correspondence on the back is of primary interest. Renowned photographer Walker Evans once said of postcards, “On their tinted surfaces are some of the truest visual records ever made of any period.” This historical record of New York City’s past comes to life in the colorful cards of Lost New York in Old Postcards.

Divided into eight cat-egories, the postcards on display in Lost New York are from the col-lection of Rod Kennedy, Jr., and the perma-nent collection of the Museum of the City of New York. Mr. Kennedy’s postcards will be donated to the Museum, supplementing its current holdings. The cards in Lost New Yorkcapture images of buildings, parks, hotels, subways, restaurants, nightclubs, the-aters, and stores that no longer exist or have been transformed by the constant change that defines New York City as a work in progress. From the famed Copacabana nightclub to the Trylon and Perisphere of the 1939 World’s Fair, these postcards are both a record of life in the City in the past and an amus-ing and often exaggerated depiction of New York City icons and attractions. A fully illustrated book by the same title, Lost New York in Old Postcards, is to be published by Gibbs Smith, Publisher, in August 2001 in conjunction with the exhibition. Created by Rod Kennedy, Jr., with research and text by Elizabeth Ellis, this publication chronicles Mr. Kennedy’s experiences as a postcard collector and features the cards on view in the exhibition. The book will be available in the Museum Shop of the Museum of the City of New York for $24.95.

As Mr. Kennedy notes in his book, postcards became popular after 1898, the year Congress reduced the cost of mailing commercially printed cards from two cents to just a penny. Following this price reduction, Americans bought over 770 million cards in 1906 and just under one billion in 1913. Today these images are valued not only as a snapshot of one’s travels but as a testimony to the people, places, and things that have come to sym-bolize New York City but often survive only as memories.

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