How to Store and Display Your Postcards
Too Many Postcards?
If you become smitten by the postcard collecting bug, and believe me it can be very addictive, you will very soon start to wonder what to do with them all. You can of course put them up on a noticeboard or frame them, but if you are a true addict, you will quickly find you have too many even for that. Though, of course, some would say you can never have too many.
Here are a few suggestions for how to store and display your postcards, or a combination of both. Sometimes a display can be seen as a type of storage. I personally have just a few on display at any one time and keep most of my more precious ones carefully tucked away safely. I like to rotate the displayed cards regularly though there are a few that I love so much I keep them constantly on view. My vintage cards are stored in archive quality sleeves in special albums.
Storage and Display Solutions
- Cardboard boxes
- Cardboard boxes with dividers
- Plastic boxes
- Metallic boxes
- Fixed wall display
- Temporary displays
- In a specially made "album"
- Freely hung on wire, string, or thread
The Simplest and Least Expensive Storage
I know it doesn't sound exciting but one of the easiest ways to store cards is to use shoe-boxes, or any box of a similar size and shape. All but the largest or the more unusually shaped cards will fit very easily and you can store a remarkably large number in just one box. They are kept tidily and relatively safely and it will fit any budget.
This is the most cost effective way of storing your postcards.
You can have one of theses boxes specifically for the wide panoramic cards that are popular in some countries. Just turn the box through 90 degrees and you have the perfect size!
The disadvantage comes when you want to look through them. Let's face it, there is little point in collecting postcards if you can't admire them yourself or show them to other people. Then you're faced with taking them out in handfuls, and sorting through them. If you're looking for a specific one, or group of postcards, you do have a problem. It can mean leafing through hundreds to find what you want. That really won't do any good to the condition of the cards.
Nevertheless, it's a popular way of storing cards because it's cheap and easy. If the look of them offends you, try covering them with pretty paper or decorating them in some way.
Shoebox With Dividers
My father, as many other people do, dealt with the problem of having to leaf through so many postcards just to find one in particular, or merely for enjoyment, by subdividing the box with stiff cardboard tabs labelled with the country name. After all, if you can't take them out to look at them, what is the point of having all those postcards?
Now I found those cardboard subdivisions less than helpful or at best only partially helpful. I kept forgetting whether the cards should go in front of or behind the divider. So I started to store my cards inside paper bags, the sort a shopkeeper would use to give you any postcards you had just bought. I could store those sideways inside the shoebox with a label written directly on to the bag itself. Easy, inexpensive - and messy looking. However it has the great advantage that now I can pull out a whole country's worth of cards very easily to look at them, sort them, share them.
Storage Boxes for Postcards
If the shoebox idea seems a little scruffy, try a more upmarket approach with a designed-for-the-purpose storage option. They are mainly shoe-box shaped and sized but look considerably better. They come in anything from decorated cardboard to the aluminium one shown here. You do need to take the same things into account as for an album - the size and shape of the cards primarily.
Plastic Storage Boxes
I've only recently found these containers which are the perfect size for standard postcards. They lend themselves to all sorts of filing systems. For instance, I use one of mine for my collection of postcards from UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Each country's sites are in a single storage cassette within the carrying case. They could, alternatively, be used for counties or states within a country. No doubt there are many other ways of using these versatile containers. It's entirely up to you.
The boxes are also very easy to label.
They are made by IRIS and you can find them on Amazon. I, however, ordered mine through eBay because they were less expensive at the time.
Probably the most effective way to keep your postcards is in albums. In days gone by postcards would be glued into albums or in the best case, slipped into slots in the page, but even that will cause slight but noticeable marks. Most albums nowadays have plastic sleeves for the cards, causing no damage at all. On the face of it, they seem perfect. They keep your postcards safe, protected and easy to view.
If you have vintage postcards which are particularly precious and valuable, you must ensure the plastic sleeves are of archival quality and that they won't cause any deterioration to the cards.
There are some disadvantages though:
- they aren't cheap.
- they don't hold so very many cards so any you buy do need to have spare leaves readily available.
- they take up a lot of shelf space.
- they hold only standard sizes of cards.
I couldn't possibly keep all my thousands of cards in albums so I use a dual system. My special favourites and precious vintage cards are in albums, the everyday ones are in the shoeboxes.
Choosing an Album
You can find all sorts of albums and storage options on Amazon. There isn't really a great deal to choose between the different albums on offer but there are certain aspects you would do well to consider:
- The size of the postcards you want to store compared with the pocket size in the album;
- Whether or not you want a loose leaf album which can be useful if you want to change the order of the cards, or add more and more;
- You may want to think about how you would mix landscape and portrait cards;
- The size of the pages/leaves varies and you can have anything between two and four pockets per page. Make sure they match your album;
- If you go for loose leaf albums, consider whether extra leaves are readily available.
- The size of the album itself - will it fit on your shelf?
Artistic or Creative Alternatives for Displaying Cards
People are always looking for cool and creative ways to display their collections of postcards. Here are a few ideas:
- A wall display
- A cork board
- Pinned along the edges of shelves
- Frame them in groups or collages
- Attach them to a huge map of the world
- Have a curtain full of them
- Laminate them in groups
- Be especially creative and adapt an old hardback book to make an altered book.
Any other ideas?
Display Your Postcards - From Simple Ideas to Very CreativeClick thumbnail to view full-size
Curtains or panels are an excellent way to display your most attractive cards rather than store them out of sight. Depending on the size of the panel, you can display a surprisingly large number of them. Choose one which allows you to change the display easily.
A "world map" shower curtain strikes me as an easy way to create a display rather like the one shown in the picture gallery. It has the advantage of being a very large world map so you should be able to find most countries and it wouldn't be too crowded by running a fine tape between the card and the country/region of origin.
Alternatively, I bought (but haven't yet used) a world map piece of fabric from a local store which I intend to use as a base for a postcard display. World map fabric seems to have become easy to obtain.
For clean lines, you can't beat this set. It offers a variety of sizes and orientation for the cards of your choice.
Magnetic Frames for the Fridge
Have a display of your favourite postcards on your refrigerator door. If you use magnetic frames you can move them as you like and/or rotate the display. The frames give the cards some protection and look tidier than cards stuck on with sticky tape. Some of the sets are more flexible than others as far as arranging the frames is concerned.
Or String 'Em Up
For many people the message on the reverse of the card is at least as important as the picture on the front, possibly more so. This suggestion for display should allow for either side to be seen quite easily. Alternatively you can buy string, mini pegs and do it yourself. There are of course kits available to do the same.
The Umbra Tangle Wall-Mount Metal Photo or Card Display, which you can find online, Amazon for example, really does allow you to display or easily see the message as well as the picture on the front. You can arrange the cards in any way you want and a coloured backing as shown isn't necessary. It may not be suitable to place it in a draft when it could become truly tangled!
My Collection of Map Postcards in an Album
When it comes to albums full of themed cards, such as my map-cards, it seems sensible to try to subdivide them into smaller categories. This probably doesn't apply to themes like "bicycles" (always very popular) but as far as maps or UNESCO World Heritage Sites are concerned, I think they need to be divided up into countries within an album.
Of course this is where choosing a loose leaf album comes in, and I would say you may need to buy subject dividers too. My next project is to find or make some attractive subject dividers.
50 Ways to Use Your Postcards
Ideas from the Victoria and Albert Museum
If you aren't looking to preserve your postcards in their original condition (ie don't mind cutting them up), the Victoria and Albert Museum has a list of ideas and accompanying instructions on their website.
Only one or two of the ideas are strictly display ideas, and I propose attempting them to demonstrate, but the other ideas may well appeal to teachers or parents.
If you are in the UK, in London, the Victoria and Albert Museum is SO well worth a visit. It's one of my favourites. My son was at university nearby and I would pop in whenever I had some time to kill. I love it!
Make Your Own Displays
If you are in any way inclined towards craft work and using your hands, there are various fun ways to make your own displays or albums. I have tried a few and the results you can see below. If you follow the links, you will find more detailed explanations and instructions.
1. A quick and easy way to make a wall display
I tried making this myself - the results to the right - and it really and truly is easy, so much so that even I could make it in 30 minutes.
It's a great way to show off a few items on a theme or colour and a pleasant decoration for a wall.
For the instructions, if you need them, go to A Quick and Easy Way to Display your Postcards
2. Make a Concertina- or Fan-Fold Album
It's less easy than the hanging display above but I think it lends itself very nicely to a selection of postcards and other paper memorabilia on a single subject - a holiday, an outing, anything really that comes to mind.
You can find the instructions in this article.
3. Illustrate an Atlas
Another idea for storing/displaying postcards is to insert them into an atlas. It's a little fiddly but not complicated and it's great fun.
Instructions are in this article.
A Very Special Postcard Album
If you want to give a postcard collector a special gift, or maybe just treat yourself, this might be the perfect choice. In days gone by, this would have been the sort of postcard album used by most people as they saved all the lovely postcards that arrived from friends and family. It is a real delight to find an album that isn't plastic.
It is an especially elegant postcard album in the art nouveau style with French flair. It will fit smaller size postcards (3-1/2 x 5-inch and 4 x 6-inch) or even photos if you prefer. The cards are held in place in slits in the album pages so reminiscent of albums of days gone by. It would make a wonderful keepsake if offered as a gift, already filled with beautiful pictures. You could consider it as an alternative form of scrapbook.
Be aware though, that it isn't ideal for keeping valuable postcards, but it would be absolutely perfect for family favourites.
Somewhere among all these ideas, I hope you have managed to find a way to keep your postcards, a way to suit your own priorities (and pocket).
Needless to say, most of the ideas would serve equally well for photo storage and display. Photos, even many vintage ones, are much the same size and shape as most postcards. The only exceptions would be that you probably don't need to worry about messages on the reverse of the photo, and they are probably not as likely to be suitable for map of atlas display. Otherwise, I think the ideas are interchangeable.
Questions & Answers
© 2012 SheilaMilne