Wish You Were Here

BZ-038 (Zebra Back)

Front of a postcard of Bristol Zoo’s Zebras (undated)

BZ-037 (Zebra Front)

Reverse of postcard of Bristol Zoo Zebras

Ever restless and keen to exploit the wonderful potential of the resources we have worked with, a number of us have just got started on a new project and a new collaboration. ‘Wish You Were Here’ builds on our work with the Vaughan Postcard Collection at the Bristol Record Office. There we worked with volunteers who helped research and catalogue the 3,000 or so postcards of Bristol that the team digitised and have loaded into the Know Your Place platform. That’s a tremendous resource, but as we worked we started to feel that we were missing something, and perhaps something important and potentially fruitful to explore. The postcards are not simply images, of course: they were objects, bought, written on, posted, received and read, and re-read, shared, displayed, sent on, and then kept. So, we thought, how can we really do justice to them?

Over the next few weeks Wish You Were Here will be mapping the journeys of a set of the postcards. We are interested in what they show, of course, and where it is, but also in where it was sent from, when, and where to, and what was written. What stories do they tell? More than that, we’re interested in what new stories they might tell as well. What would happen, we thought, if we took these postcards and sent them on their way again, sent them winging their way through the mail back to the address they were sent to once before. What happens when you send a message twice, if you send a message from the past into the present? What future might it have?

Wish You Were Here involves: Julian Warren, City Archivist at the Bristol Record Office; Rosie Poebright, Creative Director at Splash & Ripple — Architects of Extraordinary Adventures — Nick Nourse who will play with the GIS and TEI technogology side of the project, and Robert Bickers, both at the University of Bristol. Our work is supported by a seedcorn funding grant from the university’s wonderful new Brigstow University Research Institute.

So, watch this space and, who knows, watch your letter box. What delights might arrive in amongst the bills, what messages from the past, or even from the future? Unfortuntaley the Zebras will not get another outing, unless we decide randomly to send them to a No.36 somewhere. Well, perhaps we might.