By Laura Smith
For Tara McKenzie Sandercock, the postcards she has been collecting in the past decade are more than just a message sender, they are a piece of history.
“A postcard doesn’t take up much room, yet is speaks volumes,” she said. “It tells a story.”
Sandercock, who is vice president of grants and initiatives at The Community Foundation of Greensboro, recently acquired her great-great-aunt Carrie’s collection of postcards from around the world. Combined with Sandercock’s own collection, the cards are now displayed for the public at the Foundation in its latest Community Collects exhibit, “Greetings from Greensboro!”
It all began as a little girl when Sandercock’s grandmother, Ruth Louise Davis, shared Carrie’s postcard collection with her.
In the early 1900s, Carrie —- her full name was Caroline Farquhar —- was a Quaker and Latin teacher who traveled around the world with her siblings. In her travels, she collected postcards from the countries she visited including places in Europe, Japan and Egypt.
As a child, Sandercock hoped to acquire the collection someday.
“They were just fascinating to me as a child,” said Sandercock, vice president of grants and initiatives at the Community Foundation. “I remember looking at these incredible photos, and I loved that design era where they were hand-colored.
“I remember we would see the postcards and we would look up their places on the globe,” Sandercock said, “and it was an early part of my education. Just the photographs of these were amazing.”
Sandercock moved to Greensboro 12 years ago and spent a good deal of time at antique fairs and flea markets in search of her other collectible interest: pottery.
While “flea-tiquing,” as her brother calls it, and looking for pottery, Sandercock came across a stand selling old postcards, and a postcard of Greensboro caught her eye. The postcard helped her remember how much she had loved her great-great-aunt’s collection. So she bought the card.
Since that day, she has made it her passion to find old postcards, mainly from the 1900s to the 1960s. Her great-great-aunt’s collection has only added to the compilation, and she estimates the oldest card she has is from about 1902.
Sandercock looks for postcards from Greensboro and the town where she grew up, Clarksville, N.Y..
She searches flea and antique markets as well as her latest discovery, eBay, where she says she usually gets postcards as cheaply as $1.50 each to about $8 for a set.
The most she has ever paid was $35 for a postcard displaying N.C. A&T with students tilling plots in front of the administration building.
A postcard, she says, is a representational account of how much has changed throughout the years.
“I’ve learned that there’s a lot of stereotyping, certainly around race, in some of the older postcards,” she said. “It’s interesting.”
Sandercock is no stranger to the subject of history, as she has been interested in the subject her whole life and even married a history teacher. She said she sees the postcards as a representation of day-to-day living in certain socio-economic groups.
One of the most memorable experiences she’s had collecting the postcards was giving her father-in-law a postcard from the small town in Pennsylvania where he grew up.
“It blew him away,” she said. “He made photocopies of it and sent it to family and friends.”
Since acquiring her great-great-aunt’s collection in May, Sandercock has added those postcards to her own collection.
Although postcards from Greensboro are the main focus in her searches, she appreciates any postcards she can find.
“I want the collection to be as broad as possible and to feature institutions that the vast spectrum of people in our community will identify with,” she said. “People that invest in the community foundation are investing in Greensboro; it’s a visual way to get some of the idea of the history.”
At the Carter Family Gallery at the Foundation, the public can see watercolor postcards from Japan, photographic postcards from Egypt and scenes from the earlier years of Greensboro. Some postcards include scenes from Bennett College, Proximity Mill, the old Emanuel Lutheran College and even the bus depot.
“It’s not just about the landmarks,” Curator Adeline Talbot said. “It’s the way people look at them; they’re amazing to look at.”