The holdings of The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life include approximately four thousand postcards dating from the last decades of the 19th century through the first half of the 20th century.
Due to their compact size, ease of use, aesthetic immediacy, and ability to quickly connect individuals on a global scale, postcards have had a pivotal role in Jewish life since their invention in 1861.
The postcards in the Magnes Collection are related to a variety of aspects characterizing social relations in modern Jewish life. They are greeting cards sent on the occasion of major Jewish holidays (Rosh ha-shanah and Hanukkah) to connect with far-away relatives and friends, depictions of Jewish sites and customs worldwide, of historical events (from the Dreyfus Affair to the Holocaust and the foundation of the State of Israel), pocket-size musical scores for songs in Hebrew and Yiddish, advertisements for businesses enterprises, and a public forum for social commentary, at times marked by anti-Semitism or by the challenges presented by emancipation, and by Jewish immigration to America.
Many items within this collection were donated by Nell Mendelsohn in 1992, and are identified in the Magnes collection database by accession numbers beginning with 92.34. The digitization of the Mendelsohn collection, along with most of the other postcards within this set, was conducted between 2008 and 2010 with the assistance of collections intern, Diana Krell.
Several of the greeting cards included in the collection are also available as e-cards in the Magnes opensource blog.