The postcard is a fleeting and widespread art form influenced by popular ideas about social and cultural life in addition to fashions in visual style. Nurses and nursing have been the frequent subjects of postcards for over one hundred years. In fact, no other art form has illustrated the nursing profession so profusely using such a variety of artistic styles and images. These images of nurses and nursing are informed by cultural values; ideas about women, men and work; and by attitudes toward class, race and national differences. By documenting the relationship of nursing to significant forces in 20th-century life, such as war and disease, these postcards reveal how nursing was seen during those times.
Drawing from the extensive Zwerdling Collection of postcards housed at the National Library of Medicine, this traveling exhibit explores the hold that images of nursing have exerted on the public imagination over time.
The exhibit is free and open to all during normal library hours. Parking is available for a fee in the 8th Street parking deck. If special accommodations are needed, please contact Thelma Mack, research and education coordinator, at (804) 828-0017.
Image: A postcard commemorating the 16th International Council of Nurses held in Tokyo, 1977, courtesy of the Japanese Nursing Association