Postcards depict prominent features of places at certain points in history, and thus leave a unique trail of social and environmental commercial documentation. Since their invention, they have served as a fast and picturesque method of communication typically done while travelling, and have become a mainstream fixture for tourism in the twentieth century. Deltiology, the act of collecting postcards, was just one type of activity foreign tourists and businessmen practiced while in Peru in the 1920s. Peruvian textiles and pottery also caught collectors’ eyes. The Alpaca wool products, the colorful woven blankets, and the huaco earthen vessels created by centuries of indigenous peoples possessed visual appeal and cultural value to foreigners.
The early twentieth century brought political, economic, and social changes to Peru. After the devastating losses experienced from the War of the Pacific in the late 1800s, the need to reconstruct and reform Peruvian society lent itself to the economic opportunities modernization presented. Entering into the world economy made Peru vulnerable to foreign influence and Western capitalism, and the heightened foreign interest via trade, industry, and tourism began molding the emerging modern Peru in positive and negative ways. With the past and present culture converging at this critical juncture, the images presented here show old and new Peru existing in this duality.
The Hispanic Society of America Postcard Collection consists of a geographical series of postcards from Spanish and Portuguese-speaking countries. Published between 1921 to 1928, the black-and-white images document important landmarks, daily urban life, local industries, and the cultural and natural environment for each country represented. This exhibit highlights over 60 postcards from the Peru series. A selection of the series was recently used to help contextualize certain Peruvian ceramics studied in the undergraduate Art History course, "Art and Archaeology of Peru".