Friday, 24 January 2014



Welcome to the Musings Object of the Week column! Every Friday I’ll report on objects in museums, in cities, at home, on the web, and wherever else you can find objects with stories to tell (in other words, anywhere!). So kick off your weekend right by reading about objects both ordinary and extraordinary – and feel free to comment or email me to post on objects you think are worth sharing.

This week’s object is a postcard: the Ventilateur électrique (Electric fan) by Lawrence Sterne Stevens, printed around 1930. I saw this postcard on display last year at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts as part of the exhibition The Postcard Age: Selections from the Leonard A. Lauder Collection. The exhibition presented remnants of the “postcard craze” of the early twentieth century, its contents featuring themes of a rapidly developing culture through vibrant and sharable cards from Europe and the Americas.

Ventilateur électrique (Electric fan) by Laurence Sterne Stevens. 
Source: Boston Museum of Fine Arts

To me, the postcard’s “wish-you-were-here” style invites the recipient to picture him or herself in another (and likely more desirable) place for a brief moment. Strolling through the Boston MFA last February on a day with weather resembling this week’s frigid temperatures, I was entranced by the places, people, and time periods that seemed so remote yet inviting. The French Riviera! Italy by boat! Cycling through Spain! Whether a distant locale, a comical portrait, a serious sentiment, or simply a beautiful design, the postcards in the gallery as well as those we send today lend a special moment to the recipient (or the viewer) of the card. (And if the heat from the bright colours of Ventilateur électrique can’t warm you up, you might as well just go to the museum café for a latte.)

But a postcard can provide more than just an escapist moment – it can also enliven the here and now. Finding a postcard in your mailbox is like discovering a small treasure; it can bring a moment of unexpected joy and excitement to an otherwise banal day. Reading a message connects you to a friend or a family member who might be thousands of miles away. Looking at the postage incites reflection on how extraordinarily far this small piece of paper has traveled just to wind up right at your door. And keeping the card nearby, like pinning it on a bulletin board or using it as a bookmark, can inspire these feelings of wonder and connection repeatedly.

Do you try to send postcards when you travel? From where in the world have you received postcards? Share your favourite postcard moments in the comments below. Or send a digital postcard from the Lauder Collection at the site "No Postage Required."


  1. Katherine, this is great as the postcard is an object which also features a very significant object, which was at one point a new technology. We would probably call it vintage now - or if not yet, soon I am sure it will enter the vintage category :)

  2. Love your post Katherine! Since I moved to Toronto I have found myself making a point to send mail to family and friends back home just because I have a reason to now. I was definitely excited at the opportunity to send out Christmas cards this year :) Postcards are also fabulous souvenirs to invest in from places like museums, for example, as they are usually inexpensive and a lot of the time have absolutely beautiful images on them! I know I have had to hold back from starting my own personal collection of Bata Shoe Museum postcards because they are all so unique and beautiful, each featuring a different pair of fabulous shoes. And, like you said, there is nothing like getting an unexpected "treasure" in the mail from a friend or loved one. Even if you're ridiculously jealous of where they are traveling, a beautiful/funny/nostalgic postcard is definitely more welcome than the usual junk mail and bills!