Skip to main content
Menu
Close Search

Vintage postcards featured in "Pictures of Nursing" traveling exhibit at Briggs Library

Rural visiting nurse Elizabeth McPhee in Scotland, ca. 1926. (Image: National Library of Medicine)
Rural visiting nurse Elizabeth McPhee in Scotland, ca. 1926. (Image: National Library of Medicine)

Briggs Library is welcoming the National Library of Medicine’s traveling exhibition Pictures of Nursing: The Zwerdling Postcard Collection this spring.

The exhibit explores a unique archive of 2,588 postcards that feature nurses and the nursing profession from around the world, investigating the hold these images exert on the public imagination—then and now. Visitors may view the exhibit from March 2—April 11, 2020, during Briggs Library’s open hours.

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 100 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 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.

The six-banner traveling exhibit highlights only a small selection from the entire Zwerdling Postcard Collection, but over 500 more postcards are available to view in the exhibit’s online digital gallery at https://digitalgallery.nlm.nih.gov/gallery/1/. This exhibition was developed and produced by the National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health. For more information, visit https://www.nlm.nih.gov/exhibition/picturesofnursing/index.html.