Post card of Conway castle in the Abbey Museum Collection

Why Postcards?

Throughout his entire life the Reverend JSM Ward, founder of the collection at the Abbey Museum of Art & Archaeology, was driven by a desire to understand the evolution of humankind. He amassed some 90,000 objects which provide brief glimpses into the lives of cultures and civilizations long past. While most of his collection were objects used by people, Ward also brought together a contemporary collection of postcards. Luckily for us postcards are easily transportable, deftly stored and mostly have little value and therefore are unlikely to be on top of an asset list. Postcards often remain with collectors longer than more valuable objects might in times of financial hardship.

Ward’s postcard collection includes images of archaeological and historical sites, tourist attractions, spiritually meaningful places and culturally distinctive snapshots of people, events and lifestyles from about the late 1800s until his death in 1949. While they are positioned mostly outside the usual collection policy of the Museum, we have included these as part of the Ward memorabilia section. For many months now, I have been assiduously sorting them and slowly cataloguing them ready for accession into the Museum’s collections.

Amongst the first batch of postcards processed in readiness for acceptance into the collection include these examples below:

The Great Well, Carisbrooke Castle

‘The Great Well. Carisbrooke Castle. Isle of Wight’  (Black and white print of photo). At one time, Carisbrooke castle was used as a prison for Charles 1st.


postcard Conway Castle and Tubular Bridge

‘Conway Castle And Tubular Bridge’. (Tinted print of photograph on postcard. Published by Bunney’s Ltd., Liverpool and Landudno). Conway Castle was built by Edward 1st when he subjugated the Welsh Kingship. Master James of St George was appointed by Edward as his Master architect for 30 years.


Aden MaalaThe Wharf

‘Aden. Maala. The Wharf.’ (Tinted and line-drawn). All over the world, museums large and small have collections of postcards – this one of ours is identical to one at Victoria Museum.


Wentworth Castle

‘Wentworth Castle’. (Full colour print of watercolour. Published by Bernard P Hall and Co.). Thomas Wentworth was an ambassador to Queen Anne. After her death he retired and built himself a Castle and a separate ‘sham’ castle.

The introduction of postcards took the world by storm in the 1800’s. Men, women and children from all levels of society now had ready visual access to cultures and places in the world that were previously unknown to them. The phrase, the ‘Poor Man’s Art Gallery’ was conceived as households displayed famous art works which they had purchased for pennies over their hearths and on their walls.

As techniques and production processes progressed, there were many ways the images were printed as postcards. There are real photo postcards, printed photo postcards, prints of art works, cartoons, embroidered and hand-painted versions. There are copies of real oils and watercolours by some pretty amazing artists of the day, there are photographs by equally admired exponents of that craft. There is black and white postcards; full colour photos, oilettes, sepia, monotones and multi-tones, and myriads of techniques in between. And that’s before we even start on the personal messages, letters and notes we might find on the postcard!

The Abbey Museum’s vision is to change people’s lives for the better, through stories created from our collection.

Postcard collections fit this mission perfectly.