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Missionary Postcard Collection

 Collection
Call Number: RG 101

Scope and Contents

This collection includes more than 25,000 missionary postcards. These postcards were produced by mission sending agencies and distributed throughout Europe and America with the intent of promoting support for the missions' work and providing information about non-Western peoples and customs. The majority of the postcards relate to African countries but other areas are also represented. A geographical inventory of the collection is available at https://web.library.yale.edu/sites/default/files/files/YDL_Missionary_Postcards_index.pdf.

Postcards depicting missionary scenes generally were not utilized for direct communication from missionaries in the field to supporters at home, nor were they typically acquired at the sites that they depict. Rather, the postcards were produced by mission sending agencies and distributed throughout Europe and America as a means of gaining publicity and garnering support. Postcards utilized techniques of "marketing" or persuasion to a greater or lesser degree, depending on the agency producing them. Postcards produced by nondenominational and faith mission agencies, as opposed to mainline church missions agencies, often took a more pointed approach toward gathering support for their work.

While many of the postcards in the library's collection seem designed primarily to publicize the producing mission agency's work, other serve to provide information about non-Western peoples and customs. The images of the missionary postcards provide an interesting glimpse into the Christian missionary enterprise and its impact on society. They illustrate the customs, methods, and technology disseminated by the missionaries, provide depictions of indigenous life, and shed light on the culture of the missionary enterprise in the early 20th century.

Dates

  • ca. 1920s - 1960s

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Existence and Location of Copies

As noted in the finding aid, about forty boxes of postcards in the collection have been digitized and are available in the Divnity Library Photographs database.

Arrangement

This finding aid is an inventory of the boxes.

Extent

46 Linear Feet (184 boxes)

Language of Materials

English

Persistent URL

http://hdl.handle.net/10079/fa/divinity.101

Overview

The collection includes more than 25,000 missionary postcards. These postcards were produced by mission sending agencies and distributed throughout Europe and America with the intent of promoting support for the missions' work and providing information about non-Western peoples and customs.

Biographical / Historical

The "Postcard Era" was a distinct historical phenomenon occurring in the years between the Spanish-American War and the First World War. Postcard collecting was widespread in Europe by the turn of the century, and the fad had caught on fully in the United States by 1905. The majority of the missionary postcards in the Divinity Library collection date from the 1910s through the 1920s, somewhat past the height of postcard mania, but coinciding with a post World War I surge in mission interest, which was reflected in increasing numbers of missionaries being sent overseas.
Title
Guide to the Missionary Postcard Collection
Author
Yale Divinity Library staff
Date
2018
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Yale University Divinity School Library Repository

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