A new project of the Troy University Libraries is tracing the history of military service from 1903 through 1966 through postcards.
Consisting of a traveling exhibit and an online component, the project, “Military Service: A History in Postcards,” features postcard images from the Wade Hall Postcard Collection held by Troy University Libraries and is made possible by a grant from the Alabama Humanities Foundation. It will mark the fourth traveling exhibit featuring postcards from Hall’s collection. The previous exhibits focused on scenes from Alabama’s historic streets, historic or government buildings and tourism in Alabama.
The online component of the exhibit, which had its genesis in an effort to digitize the entire postcard collection, is available for viewing at https://troy.libguides.com/military, while the traveling exhibit is currently being developed and will begin touring to various libraries and museums in January.
“I was doing some organizing of the collection so that it could be digitized, and I discovered there were about 1,500 military postcards consisting of about 2,000 images,” said Kelly Reeves, Library Assistant and Evening Circulation Supervisor who is directing the project. “We felt this exhibit would have significant interest, especially among the military community, and would serve as a tremendous educational resource. The website enables faculty members the opportunity to incorporate the exhibit in their classes.”
The traveling exhibit will feature 16 printed screen banners, each portraying a distinctive aspect of military history. The postcards exhibited will feature each of the current branches of service, scenes from Alabama military bases including Maxwell Army Air Base and Camp Sheridan, military-themed comics, personal and action photos, and military-themed prayer, slogan and victory cards, among others.
Overall, Hall’s collection of military postcards represents scenes from more than 200 camps and forts from 46 states, the District of Columbia and six countries.
Adding to the historical images, nearly 500 postcards in the collection contain written messages, which portray the thoughts of service members and their families and serve to humanize military service, particularly during wartime.
“These messages help to tell the story of what military service is about,” Reeves said. “These service members had lives and were making every effort to maintain a connection with their families. A WWI message written shipboard 700 miles out in the Atlantic Ocean from a ship ferrying African American soldiers home says, ‘We’re 700 miles from the Statute of Liberty and expect to see the old girl soon’.”
Ruth Elder and Dr. Marty Olliff are serving as co-directors for the project, which has received support and assistance from Troy University’s TROY for Troops Center and TROY’s ROTC programs. Jerry Johnson, part-time lecturer in the University’s Department of Art and Design, has served as the exhibit’s designer.
An alumnus of Troy State Teachers College, Dr. Hall, who died in 2015, was born in Bullock County, Alabama near Union Springs. He was a professor of English, an author, historian, collector and philanthropist. Dr. Hall received his master’s degree from the University of Alabama and a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois. He taught English for 30 years at Bellarmine University in Louisville, Kentucky. His authored works include: Conecuh People: Words of Life from the Alabama Black Belt; The Kentucky Anthology: Two Hundred Years of Writing in the Bluegrass State; and Greetings from Kentucky: A Postcard Tour, 1900 to 1950. From 1953 to 1956, Dr. Hall also served in the U.S. Army, stationed in Germany.