WANT TO GO?
"Postcards of Charleston" talk
WHERE: Archives and History Library at Culture Center in state Capitol Complex
WHEN: 6 p.m. Tuesday
INFO: Registration encouraged by calling 304-558-0230 ext 163CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Given Instagram, Flickr, Facebook and cellphone cameras in every pocket and purse, historians 100 years from now will not lack for images to visualize what Charleston looked like in the year 2012.
But for historians of today, looking backwards 100 years, you take what you can find when trying to picture downtown Charleston a century ago.
You go and find postcards, for instance.
"I wanted to give a kind of chronological history of Charleston using postcards," said Stan Bumgardner of a book that inspired his upcoming talk on the city's changing skyline.
The historian and museum consultant will deliver a free program titled "Postcards of Charleston" at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the Archives and History Library at the Culture Center in the state Capitol Complex.
The talk will feature some 40 to 50 postcards drawn from Bumgardner's 2006 book, "Charleston" (Arcadia Publishing), which tracks the history and growth of the city through more than 160 postcards.
"Where that idea came from is that my father has the Kanawha Coin Shop," Bumgardner said. "He has over the years accumulated more than 100,000 postcards and many were from the Charleston area. He kind of encouraged me to do something with them at some point."
There are benefits and drawbacks to using postcards to sketch a city's history.
"The good part is it is very visual and you get to see how the city developed kind of structurally, how it developed from the downtown area and spread out over time," he said.
The downside? Postcards are often limited in their subject matter, he said. "I couldn't talk about whatever I wanted to talk about. It was a little challenging trying to tell the history through those specific postcards."
For that reason, his talk will focus mostly on what traditional postcards have always depicted -- businesses, churches, schools. And most of that focus, given what's literally in the cards, will be on downtown Charleston with an emphasis on Capitol Street.
What's missing in looking back at history this way is a larger story that must be teased out in other ways. For example, Bumgardner said, "there aren't a lot of postcards that depict African-American history."