Sunday, September 3, 2017

Cataloging Postcards

September 3, 2017  (Updated Sept. 5, 2017)

My summer project has been to catalog part of my postcard collection. I own about 2500 in 19 loose-leaf binders that are arranged by city.  One binder is just for Chicago related cards and two are for Jerusalem. So far, I have added 376 cards to the catalog.  Each catalog record also has a scan of the picture since many have similar texts.  Several people (non-librarians) have asked why do I catalog them.  “Is it not enough to have them in a box?”

Migdal David Museum at Jaffa Gate  picture that I took in August 1990.
Cataloging and arranging books or other materials enables one to figure out context.  Having a pile of things does not help one understand the connections.  Partly I catalog them because I can catalog them.  My library catalog is a record of what I own.  It is searchable by author, title, subject or any other field in the record.  I have more search options than the expensive library system in the college where I work.  I also want to get a sense of history.  Many cards are more than 60 years old. Many of the cards are hard to date.  The ones that were mailed have a date that means the card was published before that date.  The postcards are easier to keep track of than photographs. Some have messages that were written by people I know or sent to relatives who have passed away.

I had to make some local cataloging rules to facilitate efficient cataloging.  The title field is taken from the caption on the non-picture side.  Only the English text is transcribed.  The title always includes a media designator “[postcard]” even though RDA does not require this.  The subject has the name of the city with a genre “postcards.” The classification has an album designation. If there is no caption on the non-picture side and words on the picture side, those words were transcribed.

The places pictured have changed.  After cataloging so many from Israel, I want to see if I can find the same scene today as depicted in the picture on the card.  Below is an example of the changes.  The Hurva Synagogue ( בית הכנסת החורבה‎‎) is on 89 ha-Yehudim Street in the Old City of Jerusalem [1].  The original synagogue was built in the early 1700’s but destroyed by the Moslems.  The site was unoccupied for 164 years and acquired the name “Hurva” meaning “destroyed.” It was rebuilt in 1864 as city’s main Ashkenazi synagogue. When Rabbi Dr. Yitzhak Herzog came to Israel as the chief rabbi, he delivered his first public speech in this synagogue.[2]  After the 1948-49 Israel-Arab War the Jordanians again destroyed the synagogue.  For many years, all that was left was the arch.  

Hurva Interior from between 1934-38.  Library of Congress Collections.

Here are some postcards from in the years 1970-1995.

In 2010 the reconstruction project was completed and people were again able to use the synagogue for prayers. 

About 2011

In August 2012 I took the picture below. Notice that the arch and the remnant of the original wall is part of the reconstructed wall.  This was the only time I was able to take a picture of a place in the postcard collection and compare it to a contemporary view.  The next time I visit Israel I am going to attempt to visit places in the postcards to see how much the places have changed.

Interior 2012.  Notice the similarity to the 1938 interior.

[1] For more information see these web sites: “Hurva Synagogue “  or  “The Hurva Synagogue”

[2] See page 40 for a picture and page 41 for the text in The Rabbinate in Stormy Days: The Life and Teachings of Rabbi Yitzhak Isaac HaLevi Herzog, Chief Rabbi of Israel  / by Shaul Mayzlish. Springfield, NJ :Gefen Books, 2017.

Note:  The LMS system I use is called LibrarySoft.  I got in in 1995 when I used it for automating that library where I worked.  The vendor allowed me use a copy at home.  Since I no longer work there,  I paid for a personal update.  In 1995 it was a great inexpensive program, but by today's standards, it is not very powerful.  My personal collection has more than 6000 bibliographic entries.  I recently started adding all the electronic books and articles that I have used in my research. That allows me to find them without the need to print them out.  My collection includes books, not-print video and audio, articles, analytics, and even serialized equipment.


Anders said...

"Because I can". I just love that. A reason as good as any. Btw, what platform do you use for your personal OPAC, Daniel?

Unknown said...

One of my first cataloging jobs was cataloging postcards at the Florida State Library and Archives, way back in 1996/97. It was fascinating work. The cards were scanned and then we created MARC records for each one. It led to a many interesting conversations about providing 'aboutness' for each record--we could represent the pictures but also context of the pictures. One example is the illustrated card we found depicting an alligator in a swamp with a little African-American boy in its mouth. It was a tourism postcard but it spoke volumes about race and racism in that state at that time--early 20th century, if I recall correction.