The Picture Collection has nearly 100,000 postcards available to researchers representing places and subjects from across the world. Postcards were circulated by the Picture Collection from at least the early 1920s and were likely housed with subject clipping files until later segregated into a separate collection. Acquisition has been mainly through donations from hobbyists and travelers, but the department has historically sought ways to harvest ephemeral material of this kind; librarians on foreign or domestic travels, for instance, were encouraged to buy and add postcards to the collection.
The views are largely photographic, though artistic renderings are also represented; both image types are transmitted via reproductive technologies such as collotype, letterpress halftone, rotogravure, photo-chrome, and others (real photo, or photographic, postcards are also included). The circulating collection of postcards is organized by the name of the country or territory, while the non-circulating, or reference, postcard collection follows the Picture Collection's Subject Heading index.
The Picture Collection holds a collection of over 3,000 holiday greeting cards dating from the 1800s through the present. Practically every festive motif of the holiday calendar is depicted: idyllic winter scenes, Easter eggs, holly, decorative initials and borders, horseshoes, shamrocks, chicks, cupids, cherubs, four-leaf clovers, turkeys, and bushels of bouquets of posies. Along with the holiday-themed artwork, the sentiments that went along with each occasion are often expressed in printed verse on the card, and in handwritten notes on cards, typically short expressions of goodwill to loved ones. Non-English-language cards form a small but notable subset of the collection.
The reference, or non-circulating, portion of the Picture Collection comprises about one-fifth of the collection's holdings of approximately 1.5 million images. Consisting mostly of images produced in the early twentieth century and before, the Reference Collection complements the collection's primary circulating image holdings and is organized into the same 12,000 subject categories as the main collection. This image reference collection can be found in Room 100 of the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building and can be accessed with the help of a librarian in the Picture Collection.
The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Picture Collection
The New York Public Library.
The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1878. Image ID 833257