Library News »05/08/2013

Library Releases Digital Collection of Historical Northwest Postcards

Lake Chatcolet PostcardThe University of Idaho Library’s Digital Initiatives department has released a new collection of more than 800 digitized postcards featuring images of the late nineteenth and early to mid-twentieth century Northwestern United States.

The Northwest Historical Postcards Collection displays unique and engaging images of people and places in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, British Columbia and Alberta. The collection includes rare depictions of turn-of-the-century buildings, thriving mining towns that later became ghost towns, and Mount St. Helens before the eruption.

The postcards, which were given to the library by a wide variety of donors, come from the historical photograph collections housed in the UI Library’s Special Collections. They were digitized by Annie Gaines, Scholarly Communications Assistant, during 2012 and 2013. A sampling from the collection is currently exhibited on the second floor of the library. 

Postcards originated in Europe in the late nineteenth century as an inexpensive means of communication and quickly became popular in America. In 1873 the U.S. Post Office officially permitted the use of a double-sided card with room for a message and mailing address on the back, allowing the entire front of the card for an image.  

“The history of the postcard is quite fascinating,” said Devin Becker, Digital Initiatives Librarian. “At least a billion postcards have been sent each year since about 1910, so they’ve become a staple of our correspondence and a fundamental record of the era.” 

“We are proud to offer this collection online to the general public,” said Becker. “These postcards are a valuable resource for researchers interested in the historical and cultural development of the western states.” Questions and comments about the collection may be directed to Devin Becker at

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