Before Instagram, there were postcards. And over the next six months, Newberry Library, Chicago, will take possession of 2.5 million of them from the Curt Teich Postcards Archives Collection, previously housed at the Lake County Discovery Museum in Wauconda.
The collection’s centerpiece is the 360,000-card archives of Curt Teich, a company that operated in Chicago from 1898 to 1978 and was the world’s biggest printer of advertising and view postcards. Teich photographers took pictures in more than 10,000 towns and cities in the U.S., Canada and 115 other countries.
In addition to its famous “Greetings From” series, the archives includes prints, sketches and other material related to postcard printing. The Teich family donated the archives to the Lake County Discovery Museum when the company ceased operations.
The official appraisal for the collection is $4,643,360, Schreyer says, but there are discrete collections within the postcard archive that haven’t been appraised yet and so aren’t represented in the official appraisal figure.
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From the Newberry Library:
“The Teich Collection is a fascinating and unusual body of material, widely regarded as significant for twentieth-century cultural studies,” said Lake County Forest Preserve President Ann B. Maine. “Transferring the collection to the Newberry will place it in a broader context with their wonderful collections, and expose it to wider recognition as a scholarly resource. We are pleased that we were positioned to create it 35 years ago, and to develop it into the important collection it is today. Transferring it to the Newberry strengthens the missions of both organizations. In our case, it allows us to focus resources on preserving and telling Lake County’s rich natural and human story when the new museum opens in Libertyville.”
At the heart of the Curt Teich Postcard Archives Collection are the industrial archives of the Curt Teich Company itself. The company operated in Chicago from 1898 to 1978 as the world’s largest printer of view and advertising postcards. Consisting of over 360,000 images related to more than 10,000 towns and cities in the U.S., Canada, and 115 other countries, the Teich industrial archives also contain photographs, prints, sketches, and other layout materials documenting the creation of many of the company’s postcards. The range of themes aligns with several subject strengths in the Newberry collection, including local and family history, travel and exploration, Chicago and the Midwest, and the history of printing, publishing, and typography.
We are very excited by the many interconnections our users will be able to make between the Curt Teich Postcard Archives and the Newberry’s distinctive areas of strength,” said Alice Schreyer, the Newberry’s Roger and Julie Baskes Vice President for Collections and Library Services.
Schreyer is leading the Newberry’s effort to integrate the postcard materials into the library’s collection, a process involving both the physical relocation of materials and the digital migration of catalog records and inventories. By April, the Newberry expects to be able to provide reference service to anyone interested in knowing more about the contents of the archives. Access to the materials themselves at first will be by appointment only while the Newberry incorporates the Curt Teich Postcard Archives Collection into the library’s discovery and access systems. Users will have uninterrupted access to more than 30,000 digitized postcard views available through the Illinois Digital Archives.
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