Hull History Centre on hunt for historical Christmas cards

It might be months until the festive period begins, but archivists at Hull History Centre are asking people to think about Christmas cards early this year.

That’s because the centre is planning an exhibition that will look at historical examples of the traditional festive greeting card.

And members of staff are appealing to anyone who might have saved a stylish or strange specimen from Christmases past.

One card to be displayed dates back to 1868. The card, in almost perfect condition, is adorned with a delicate design and an intricate bevelled edge, with nothing written inside.

Hull History Centre archivist Elspeth Bower said: “We would like you to think about whether you have any examples of Christmas cards at home that are not mass-produced and could potentially be of historical interest. It would be really great if your card has a story to tell.”

The tradition of sending greetings cards during the festive period began in 1843 when Sir Henry Cole, the founder of London’s V&A Museum, asked an artist friend to design a card with the generic greeting “A Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year To You” in order to correspond with all of his friends at once.

History Centre staff are hoping to find cards with a Hull connection, cards sent by Prisoners of War and cards received during the First World War – which are scarcely found today because of the paper salvage drive of 1914 to 1918.

Archivists are particularly keen to find cards from the 1870s when black backgrounds were in vogue, as well as cards commissioned by Hull-based companies. They also hope to find comic and trick cards and embroidered or oddly shaped cards.

Councillor Marjorie Brabazon, Chair of Hull Culture & Leisure Ltd, said: “The humble Christmas card is something we may not spend too much time thinking about, but it has always been a wonderful way to show our friends and family we are thinking of them over Christmas.

“I, for one, can’t wait to see what promises to be a beautiful exhibition that will show us how Christmas cards have changed over the years.”

Elspeth said those who submitted cards would have to agree to their inclusion in the exhibition.

She said: “Afterwards, you could choose to have the original returned to you or to deposit it with us within an archive collection specifically created for this project. We would, of course, look after it well and preserve it for future generations to enjoy and discuss.”

History Centre staff are hoping to open the exhibition in November.

To submit a Christmas card for inclusion in the exhibition, or for more details, call the centre on 01482 317500 or email hullhistorycentre@hcandl.co.uk