Postcards: catalogue and digital archive

The Royal Observatory at Greenwich has been a popular subject for postcards since picture postcard publishing began in earnest at the turn of the twentieth century.

With more than 800 postcards from over 100 different publishers, this catalogue and archive provides an important and comprehensive visual documentation of the Observatory buildings and the way they were viewed by the public as well as giving a unique insight into the development and subsequent decline of the postcard industry. Some cards were produced in their tens of thousands. Others are much rarer with perhaps only a handful having been produced.

The ongoing changes to the Observatory buildings were reported to the {{A35|Board of Visitors}} each year. As a result, the images can be dated rather more reliably than can be done from any examination of postmarks or serial numbers. In the early years, some publishers used old photographs taken 20 or more years previously to launch themselves into a rapidly expanding market with some continuing to dip into archival material even as late as the 1920s. As the industry evolved, whilst some publishers regularly published new images, others continued to publish the same images year after year for twenty years or more – a practice that has been continued to this day.

The dates that accompany each postcard are an estimate of the date that the underlying image was created rather than the date of publication.


The collection has been digitised and is available from this link