Chicago Postcard Museum

5:20 pm. Saturday, Nov. 24

I found my way to the “Maps: Finding Our Place In the World” exhibition at the Field Museum in Chicago over the weekend. It was impressive despite falling flat on roadside Americana.

After spending two hours looking at globes and maps I perused the gift shop for relevant map postcards. There were none. What’s up with that?

I know with the advent of the Internet, sending out a postcard is becoming a lost practice, just as the art of lighting a cigarette with a match from a matchbook. I’ve always collected matchbooks and postcards because they frame a sense of place—and they are easy for a pack rat to store.

The Chicago Postcard Museum seems to figure that if you can’t beat ’em, join’ em.

The museum opened Nov. 1 at………..

…….Check it out.

The Special Exhibits Hall hosts the museum’s temporary exhibitions and special postcard collections. The new acquisitions section highlights latest discoveries. Room 56 covers Chicago postcards from the 1950s and 60s and “Souvenir Hall” consists of foldouts and special sets.

The postcards are donated to the museum and its owners. The entire collection is willed to the Chicago History Museum upon the curator’s death. I do not know who the curator is, although I got a nifty John Hancock Center postcard from Neil Gale announcing the museum’s opening.

I will put the Chicago Postcard Museum in my Favorite Links file.

I have a suggestion for another exhibit section. How about the messages on the backs of postcards?

In the mid-1990s I was a regular at Ed Ratliff’s booth of more than 50,000 postcards at the Kane County Flea Market in suburban Chicago. He had the postcards meticulously organized so it was easy to spot markers that said “Asylums,” “Prisons,” “Trains” and “Florida.” Ed used to sell “Animal” postcards to veterinarians from Brookfield Zoo and “Actor” Bill Murray came by Ed’s booth a couple of times. I can’t remember what category I found “Oil Tank Struck By Lighting” a grim postcard of black billowing smoke,

I used to buy strange cards just for the notes. My favorite Ed acquisition was a postcard from the Bloomingdale Insane Asylum in Worcester, Mass. In elegant script, the message on the back simply stated, “From your husband.” And that was it, as curt as a broken wedding vow.

I remember how Ed used to keep an eye on his collection in a booth not far from the homemade chili that is still served at the flea market. Ed liked the fact people were always asking about postcards from their hometowns. The only clients that bothered him were golfers. His golf section was stolen twice.

That will not happen at The Chicago Postcard Museum.

Spread the word.

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