Postcard Collecting

There is a tendency to denigrate the present, whatever it is, because we know so much about it, while romanticizing the past, whatever it was, because its less pleasant details grow fuzzier with each passing year, accentuating the cherished highlights even more.
Neil Steinberg from You Were Never in Chicago

I’ve been on a postcard collecting kick lately.  I don’t have many, just a dozen or so.  But I find them absolutely fascinating.  I think there are two parts to my interest in them.  First, they’ve visually appealing.  Postcards from the early twentieth century have a really neat style.

Front.  1956.

Front. 1956.

The colors are vivid, and the images are interesting to look at, especially when they’re of familiar locations.  Second, I love the idea of sending a postcard with a short note to friends and family back home.  I’m trying to only buy postcards which have been sent.  The postal cancelations are interesting, and I enjoy seeing what people had to say to the people they were writing to.

Take a look below at some of the postcards I’ve got so far.  And if you come across a collection of interesting postcards, I’d love to hear about it!

A New Job

For the past three weeks I have been working at a new job.  I’m happy to say that I’m part of the team at Switchboard of Miami.  Switchboard has been in existence since 1968, and we provide information and referral services for the Miami-Dade area.    We make over 10,000 referrals a month for people looking for assistance in a variety of areas, including emergency housing assistance, health care, child care, legal assistance, and other issues primarily in the human and social services area.

Most of our callers come through 2-1-1.  2-1-1 is a Federally designated phone number (like 911 or 411) and different agencies in different communities are authorized to offer 2-1-1- services.  2-1-1 is the go-to number for anyone looking for help for a variety of purposes.  We also offer information & referral (known as I&R) services for agencies like the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, and we operate services offering phone-based assistance and information for seniors and families with young children.

I am working with a colleague maintaining our database.  We have over 6,000 records consisting of agencies and the programs they offer, and the database is constantly changing.  Some agencies have just one or two programs, and other agencies have fifty or more programs.  My work consists of connecting with existing and new agencies, delving into the nature of their programs, and describing them thoroughly and consistently so they’re findable in our database.  I utilize a taxonomy administered by the Alliance of Information and Referral Systems (AIRS) to describe and index the agencies and programs in our database.  We also operate under accreditation guidelines from AIRS, which include mandates for how information is to be collected, stored, and disseminated.  For my archive and library friends, this is akin to utilizing Library of Congress subject headings and AACR2 to catalog books.

The really interesting part of this work is that these agencies and their programs are constantly changing and expanding.  This means that on a daily basis I get the opportunity to talk to interesting people doing interesting work to help the community.

If you don’t know about 2-1-1 services in your area, visit http://www.211us.org, or better yet, just dial 2-1-1.  And if you’re an information professional, this kind of work is a great example of the unique and outside-of-our-field work that is to be had.

Chicago Research Trip

I am heading to the Windy City tomorrow to continue work on a project which I began last summer.  This project deals with Bertha Palmer’s book collection at The Ringling Art Library, and this trip will give me some time in archival repositories to finish my work.  You may recall that the project dealt with the books that belonged to Bertha Palmer which are now in The

Chicago

Chicago

Ringling Art Library.  I ended my summer internship having examined the condition of the books in the collection, identifying items for conservation, and just scratching the surface of what this collection might say about Bertha’s interests, opinions, and personality.

What the collection at The Ringling Art Library doesn’t tell us, and what I aim to find out, is what other books Bertha Palmer owned and read.  I was able to scratch the surface of that topic through great documents in the Bertha Palmer manuscript collection at the Sarasota County History Center.  But these documents only covered her time in Sarasota (1910-1918), and when she died her estate was filed in Cook County, Illinois, meaning records of her estate were not readily available.

The purpose of this trip is to explore those documents which relate to her life before Sarasota, and the records resulting from the settlement of her estate.  I will focus on three main repositories: The Art Institute of Chicago, the Chicago HIstory Museum, and the Cook County Clerk of the Circuit Court.

The Art Institute’s collections are heavy in Bertha Palmer’s materials surrounding the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition.  Much of Bertha’s work on the Exposition dealt with establishing a women’s library, and I hope that correspondence found in these collections will include correspondence about books that she was interested in seeing in the library or that she was aware of or reading herself.

The Chicago HIstory Museum is the de facto repository for all things Chicago, and as you can imagine, it has a large amount of materials from the Palmer family.  There are not only manuscript collections, but also art objects, clothing, and other ephemera.  Of particular use here are the Bertha Honoré Palmer manuscript collection and the Bertha Palmer and Palmer Family Research Collection.  These two collections contain correspondence, household records, ledgers, and other materials which I think might give insight into books being purchased by the family.

Finally, I hope that the Cook County Clerk of the Circuit Court will yield some good tangible information.  When Bertha Palmer died in 1918 in Manatee County, Florida (her home was on land which would, in 1921, become part of Sarasota County), her estate was handled in Cook County, Illinois.  It was common at this time for wealthy people to have an inventory conducted in order to properly value their estates.  For example, this happened with John Ringling when he died in 1936, and his inventory included a thorough list of the books found in his home.  I have no doubt that this happened with Bertha Palmer’s estate, too.  I have a copy of an abstract of the estate which was prepared by the Chicago Title and Trust Company on March 30th, 1921.  This abstract lists an inventory as being part of the probate record, and this is the document I hope to find.  As you can imagine, the estate was huge and the probate file is equally massive; I believe it to be over 2,000 pages.  I have no idea what I will find when I delve into the file, but my fingers are crossed that the estate inventory will surface and will prove useful.

Keep checking back for some (hopefully) exciting updates soon!

Switzerland

Before going home we spent a few days in Switzerland; Vals, Gimmelwald, Lucerne, and Zurich. Vals is home to the Hotel Therme Vals, whose spa is in a Pritzker-prize-winning building by Peter Zumthor. After staying overnight in Vals we drove through the Oberlap Pass (6,706 feet, where the Rhine River originates). We stayed the night in Gimmelwald, a small village at an altitude of 4,472 feet and accessible only by foot or by cable car. We finished out the trip with a night on Lake Lucerne before driving to Zurich to fly home.

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Salzburg

We took a day trip from Munich to visit Salzburg, Austria, home of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and filming location of The Sound of Music (we did a bike tour of the sights from the movie)!20130628-103934.jpg20130628-103951.jpg20130628-103959.jpg20130628-104005.jpg20130628-104017.jpg20130628-104025.jpg20130628-104035.jpg

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Neuschwanstein

We visited Neuschwanstein, the fanciful castle built Bavarian King Ludwig II. It was also the inspiration for many features of Disney’s Cinderella’s Castle. The castle was beautiful, but the surrounding views were even better. 20130628-210559.jpg20130628-210613.jpg20130628-210620.jpg20130628-210632.jpg20130628-210640.jpg20130628-210651.jpg20130628-210713.jpg20130628-210659.jpg20130628-210745.jpg20130628-210754.jpg20130628-210804.jpg20130628-210811.jpg

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Munich

After Rothenburg, we spent a few days in Munich’s historic core. We saw the Hofbräuhaus, the new city hall with its glockenspiel, and various buildings and monuments rebuilt after the bombings of World War II.
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Dachau

We spent a day at the sobering and deeply moving concentration camp, Dachau. Dachau served as the first Nazi camp and is important as it served as a model that all other camps would follow. It was a striking reminder of how incomprehensible hatred can spring up in the world, and how we mist be vigilant against it happening again.

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Rothenburg ob der Tauber

The Romantic Road continued with two days in Rothenburg– one of my favorite towns so far– included a visit to the Christmas Museum, the Criminal Museum, a walk atop the extensive city walls, and my first taste of the local pastry, schneeballen (which I gave a decisive thumbs down). We also bought a cuckoo clock!20130624-180233.jpg

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Würzburg

Our first stop on the Romantic Road was the town of Würzburg, where we walked through the town, had a delicious meal of schnitzel and potatoes, and watched the sunset, along with most of the town, from the main pedestrian bridge.

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