Troy University Libraries has produced an exhibit featuring historic postcards from the Wade Hall Collection showcasing towns and streets all over Alabama.
The exhibit coincides with the theme of the Alabama Bicentennial Commission, “Discovering Our Places.”
The exhibit consists of eight rotating panels that feature enlarged pictures of postcards accompanied by a caption indicating their date and location. On the last panel, both sides of a Gadsden postcard show viewers the photograph as well as a handwritten message from the 1950s.
Though the exhibit was originally scheduled to arrive in Troy University’s library in mid-October, production delays postponed its appearance until late November.
“The Wade Hall Postcard Collection is the cornerstone of Troy University archives” said Christopher Shaffer, dean of library services. “This collection consists of 25,000 postcards from around the country.”
The late writer and educator Wade Hall grew up near Union Springs and graduated from Troy at the age of 19 in 1953. He donated this postcard collection to the Troy University Libraries.
According to Shaffer, the library’s plans for the collection go far beyond the current exhibit. They look to eventually create postcard exhibits for anywhere from 10 to 15 other states.
“There’s an exportability to this that you don’t have with the original artifact,” Shaffer said. The postcards are fragile and they’re rare, so it’s impossible to send the postcards themselves out for people to see them.
“People from all over the state will be able to share and learn from this collection, which is just a fantastic window to the past.”
He also expressed deep thanks to the Alabama Humanities Foundation for its generous support of this project.
The display was created with the combined efforts of librarians Ruth Elder, Jana Slay and Lisa Vardaman, as well as the archivist Marty Olliff in Dothan. Jerry Johnson designed the panels to ensure not only an academically intriguing, but an aesthetically pleasing work as well.
“Photographs can depict social history,” Elder said. “So somebody wants to know what Luverne looked like back then, there’s a postcard to tell you.”
“Every postcard is significant. These are significant to us because Wade Hall gave them to us, but we wanted it to be part of the bicentennial celebration.”
NewSouth Inc. recently published a book containing postcards of Hall’s collection at the University of Alabama titled “Greetings from Alabama: A Pictorial History In Vintage Postcards.” Students can purchase the book at the Barnes & Noble Bookstore on campus.
During a reception to celebrate the release of the book as well as the exhibit, Suzanne La Rosa shared a few words regarding Hall’s life and legacy.
“We have packaged a really beautiful book lovely in the details and design, accurate in the scholarship about the postcards that I’m only sorry Wade Hall is not here to see it,” La Rosa said. “We’ve really enjoyed the fact that it’s brought us closer to the Troy community.”
The exhibit will be on display in the Troy University library until January, when it begins to travel around the state. Many libraries and universities will host the exhibit, with over 17 already in line.
“They did a good job presenting all these different places in Alabama, which I think is really a cool opportunity,” said Andrew Russell, sophomore history major from Montgomery. “We’re the international college of Alabama, right? So getting a chance to educate the people who come here about this place in a really unique way with the postcards is really interesting.”