Digital postcards new way to mark vacation

9.Digital postcards new way to mark vacation

Albert Otti


(Deutsche Presse Agentur)

If you need a break from sending a constant stream of holiday photos on social networks, a new digital archive of 75,000 old postcards might offer an alternative way to announce your vacation.

The postcards collection of the Austrian National Library allows users to surprise friends by sending them a 1936 view of Acapulco without today’s beach-side high-rises, a 1908 card of an airship floating above the Seine in Paris, or an image of steamships in Hong Kong that was taken before 1905.

Library staff in Vienna created the AKON database over two years by selecting and scanning cards from the library’s stash of 800,000 topographical postcards, which were then geo-tagged so users can find them by clicking on a world map.

Individual cards can be uploaded via a share button that connects to several social and picture platforms.

To create a truly nostalgic experience, there is also the option to send a physical version of the postcard, for a fee.

In the coming months, the national library plans to launch a mobile app that will suggest historical postcards to tourists, depending on their location.

The website and the planned app are now only in German, but the map search is intuitive to use.

Many of AKON’s images were taken in the first three decades of last century, the “heyday” of postcards, said Jan Mokre, who heads the library’s map department.

“People went wild with collecting them,” he said.

In the absence of social media, postcards allowed individuals to transmit images of travel destinations, the latest architectural feats and of current events around the globe.

AKON therefore also includes postcards of Parisians navigating their submerged city during a major flood in 1910, or of a huge pile of rubble in Venice after the campanile or tower on St Mark’s Square collapsed in 1902.

Mokre said he and his team came up with the idea for AKON because they were sitting on a vast card collection but had no way to share it with the world.

“People had to come to our reading rooms and ask to see the cards,” he said.

“That’s no way to reach people.”


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