Postcard display is a snapshot of life in the 20s

On display: Photographer Brenda Burrell with some of the exhibition of old postcards at Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens.
On display: Photographer Brenda Burrell with some of the exhibition of old postcards at Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens.
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POSTCARDS from the past – a mystery man’s collection has inspired a new art exhibition.

“Who is Martin Crosby of Fern Street, Millfield?” is the question artist Brenda Burrell is asking Wearsiders after she bought a box containing 120 of his postcards at an auction.

The cards feature notes written to Martin from the 1920s to 1940s, as well as postcards he collected from Europe.

The snapshots of history are now on display at Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens as part of a month-long festival of photography, The Social: Encountering Photography.

Brenda, from Seaham, said: “I bought the box of postcards at auction and it’s been fascinating to read them.

“I’ve been tempted to research Martin myself, but I would love people from Sunderland to tell me if they know anything of him.

Vintage postcards that form part of an exhibition at Sunderland Museum and winter gardens by photographer Brenda Burrell

Vintage postcards that form part of an exhibition at Sunderland Museum and winter gardens by photographer Brenda Burrell

“It may be a relative of his or someone who lived in one of the flower streets in Millfield.”

She added: “A lot of the postcards are English, from places like the Lake District, Chester and London, but there are also some blank ones from Germany which are interesting as this was a time when we weren’t friendly with Germany.

“Some are photographs that have been turned into postcards so this could be someone’s nana or mother.”

She added: “Some of the postcards with message are written like tweets and say things like ‘arrived at Waterloo Station at 4pm, letter to follow’. I was speaking to my mother about it and she said in those days post was so fast, Martin would have probably got that letter on the same day.

“Postcards were the tweets and emails of their day. Except these messages are permanent.”

Brenda is also asking people to submit their own postcards as part of the Fern Street Postcards project to create a large-scale postcard collection.

The postcards could be a response to the Fern Street collection or they could just be about something inspired by the display, such as a memory of the shipyards or a postcard about their home town. Visitors can put postcards in a special post box that features in the exhibition or they can use a smartphone postal app to submit them.

Brenda said: “I’ll be creating a blog of everybody’s feedback and everyone’s postcard will feature on the website. It’s a very interactive project.”

Fern Street Postcards are on display in the second floor mezzanine gallery at Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens for the next month.

* To learn more about how to contribute to the exhibition visit www.fernstreetpostcards.com.

Celebrating talent on doorstep

Fern Street Postcards is part of The Social: Encountering Photography, a month of displays and exhibitions which celebrate photography in Sunderland.

It is the largest festival of its kind, celebrating talent on our doorstep while also attracting renowned international photographers.

The Social is the brainchild of the North East Photography Network (NEPM), which is hosted, based and partly funded by the University of Sunderland and Northern Centre for Photography, at City Campus on Chester Road.

As well as hosting exhibitions in Wearside galleries, including Arts Centre Washington and NGCA in Fawcett Street, the festival will be taking art onto the street.

City centre buildings, including the Winter Gardens and The Bridges car park, will be transformed by large scale contemporary photographs and social clubs will host pop-up displays.

* For details and a full line-up of events visit thesocialnepn.