AKRON, Ohio — On the last Wednesday of the month, you can find members of the Akron Postcard Club gathered at the Postcard Library at the Cummings Center's Institute for Human Science and Culture in Akron, discussing everything from the messaging, images, and history behind the handwritten cards.
The David P. Campbell postcard collection is often at the center of these meetings.
"The postcard collection is actually the only one of our collections that any visitor who walks into our building can actually take the boxes off the shelves, take the binders off the shelves, and directly flip through it," Jennifer Bazar, assistant director of the Cummings Center for the History of Psychology, says. "They can read any of the messages, they can look at the photographs, or they can come to the Akron Postcard Club and learn with us."
According to Bazar, there are about a quarter of a million postcards in the Campbell collection, covering a variety of topics. Campbell was a prominent psychologist and postcard collector.
"For David P. Campbell, he was interested in people and culture, and so most of the cards in the collection in some way reflect individuals, different cultures," Bazar explained. "There's a lot of international cards that are there."
Bazar also said the postcards can offer a glimpse into the past, and capture a specific snapshot in time. For example, she described some postcards as capturing casual conversations about trips planned or sharing local news, while others depicted political conversations or information pertaining to a specific event.
Due to the speedy correspondence they offered at an affordable price, Bazar says postcards were one of the most popular trends of the early 20th century.
"In a lot of ways, it's both mail, but it was also social media, right?" she added. "This was instant communication that is going, you know, either short distances within town[s] or larger distances across countries even sometimes. It's kind of like a little snippet of culture in a particular time."
About a year ago, Bazar and graduate assistant Chris Shell decided to start the Akron Postcard Club, hoping to share the collection with the public.
Past meeting themes have included "Postcard Show & Tell," "A Postcard House of Horrors" in October, and, most recently in December, a "Postcard Write-A-Thon and Printmaking Demo," where members could design their own postcards and write messages to those under the guardianship of the Summit County probate court.
"Every meeting we have a different topic," Shell said. "My hope is that they go learning something new or gaining a deeper appreciation of something that is easily written off or sort of forgotten."
Shell, an avid postcard collector and sender himself, tells us adulthood has given him a newfound appreciation of the mode of communication.
"Now as an adult receiving no good mail, right -- which is sort of the mark of finally being an adult, getting good mail -- being actually excited to open the mailbox is something I never would've known I would grow to appreciate as a child," he said.
It's the same for Erika Hernandez, a member of the postcard club who collects and sends postcards from her travels.
"It's just nice to think of someone else taking the time to just sit down, grab a little piece of paper, and say, 'Hey, I thought of you,' or 'I'm here doing this cool thing,' or 'Hey, we should do this next time,' and just send it off," she explained.
The Akron Postcard Club is free and open to the public, and generally meets on the last Wednesday of every month in Akron.
"I think that there's a lot of opportunity for connection and drawing us together through these messages," Bazar said, "whether they're historic cards or, you know, something that we're writing today."
For more information on the club, click here.