Postcards and travel are synonymous. We send them to let our loved ones get a taste of an experience we’re having away from home, and that taste is often a snapshot of history. So, when The Cooper Union Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture decided to create an online exhibition highlighting New York City’s most famous street, they curated it using their postcard collection.
The “Views Along Broadway” web-based exhibit features a selection of postcards showcasing 150 sites along Broadway. They are organized into categories such as educational institutions, parks, religious institutions, hotels, restaurants, and more. Then each one is situated on an interactive map where you can click on markers along Broadway and see images of the vintage postcard and its description. Most of the cards are from the turn of the 20th century, highlighting a transformational period in the city.
“Views Along Broadway is the third in a series of online exhibitions from the Archive’s Joseph Covino New York City Postcards Collection, which is a remarkable repository of historical images capturing the city during the first half of 20th century,” Chris Dierks, Collections Manager, The Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture Archive of The Cooper Union, told Departures. “For this exhibition, we’re exploring Broadway—the oldest north-south thoroughfare in the city—through images organized in a map and a series of galleries.”
The postcards were pulled from The Cooper Union Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture Archive’s Joseph Covino New York City Postcard Collection, which might be one of the largest collections of late 19th- to mid-20th century postcards depicting New York City. In their arsenal, they have nearly 3,800 postcards showcasing everything from the city’s infrastructure to businesses and public spaces. Think piers, airports, subways, parks, aquariums, and monuments that have changed over several decades. The collection proves how a postcard truly captures a moment in time. Plus, when put together, they show how much the city has changed.
As the institution describes it, “postcards are commercial artifacts marking the rise of consumer culture, the growth of middle-class tourism, and the development of publishing technologies that fostered their widespread distribution and explosion in popularity during the first decades of the 20th century.”
While this is the latest exhibition curated from the impressive collections, previous ones have touched on the history of NYC beaches, buildings never realized, and more.