Creating an exhibition in the middle of a pandemic

Come behind the scenes with our Curator Georgina to see how an exhibition is planned and installed in such unpredictable times.

Back in 2019, I began to plan for an exhibition to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the British postcard. Postcards were a new area of research for me. As Deputy Curator of Philately, my primary focus is the Museum’s Philatelic collection, though as a kid I remember writing postcards on wet caravan holidays! Developing this exhibition has definitely given me a greater appreciation for the beauty of the postcard.
Close up image of postcards in a case with the 'Wish You Were Here' poster in the background.

Sneak peak into our new temporary exhibition ‘Wish You Were Here’.

The anniversary should have been marked in October 2020, however 2020 had different plans. Since then, we have had numerous national lockdowns and I have been on both full and part-time furlough. Luckily with the support of colleagues, very accommodating lenders and contractors, we finally have a completed exhibition Wish You Were Here: 151 Years of the British Postcard.

Let me take you through the process of producing and installing our new temporary exhibition.

Photograph of a white curved wall and empty display cases within the exhibition area.

Exhibition space at the start of install.


After looking at the postcards in our collection I started to think about a narrative for the exhibition and what key postcard themes needed to be represented. From here I reached out to different organisations, collectors, and artists to help fill the gaps in our story.

We were lucky that before the museum closed in March 2020, we had predominately chosen all the items that would go into the show and most had been photographed. Whilst working from home for the next year I relied heavily on these images to help write text along with just remembering what everything looked like.

Due to the changing lockdown measures, we were continuously moving our opening date which meant I rewrote our project timeline countless times. The pandemic also influenced the last section of the exhibition looking at the postcard today and its future. Here we were able to explore postcard production in a time when we could not physically be together.


Install must be the highlight of producing an exhibition, I have loved it. You get to see all your ideas come together and the hard work of the whole Museum in one space.

Image of a woman wearing a mask placing a item caption onto a shelf in a display case.

Installing a caption into a display case.

Before items could be installed, we needed to prep the display cases. This included changing the shelf heights, moving the cases to their final location and all importantly a good clean. After the heavy lifting then comes the install of the items. We had planned layouts of the displays, but on the day things can be changed and moved to get the best results.

Image of a woman wearing a mask placing a poster into a display case.

Installing seaside postcards and posters.

For this exhibition, we have mounted some of the postcards vertically on large acrylic sheets. By attaching the postcards to this clear sheet with magnets the viewer can see both sides of the card, which is extremely important as the image and the message are just as interesting.

Image of a woman wearing a mask reaching inside a display case where postcards are displayed on magnets.

Inside the First World War case.

During the install, we also had contractors on site who put up all the graphic panels in the space. This really brings the show to life, giving colour and vibrancy to the walls.

Image of a man on a ladder installing a graphic panel onto the wall.

Installing the wall graphic panels.

For safety reasons during install we maintained social distancing and wore masks at all times. This was extremely important, but with all the moving, lifting and cleaning as a glasses wearer I did steam up a few times.

Image of two women wearing masks, where one is drilling into a wall and the other watching.

Maintaining distance when installing frames.

What’s in the show?

The exhibition will take you through 150 years of the British postcard looking at key themes and the different ways these cards have been used. We start with the first postcards produced by the Post Office and move into pictorial postcards produced by commercial publishers. The exhibition explores relationships told through postcard messages, from courting couples to families separated by war.

Postcards aren’t only a means of communication; we also look at postcard collecting, purchasing cards as mementos and their use in artwork. We conclude the show by exploring how the postcard is being used today in new and innovative ways, which will hopefully keep these items part of our lives for years to come.

Favourite item

It’s so hard to pick a favourite item in the show, there are so many postcards on display. For me, I think the ‘Trouble with the Spark’ card from 1907 is my winner. I love the soft black and white illustration of a couple next to a classic motor car. Why not see if you can find this postcard in the show and pick your own favourite.

Image of the entrance panel of the exhibition and a view into the rest of the show.

Entrance to ‘Wish You Were Here’.

We hope you have enjoyed a behind the scenes look at the making of our new temporary exhibition. To learn more about the show head to Wish You Were Here: 151 Years of the British Postcard. We look forward to seeing you from 20 May.

Take care.

– Georgina Tomlinson, Exhibition Curator

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