This exhibit presents a curated selection of historical postcards representing various institutions that dotted the New England landscape in the early 20th century. Part of a wider collection amassed by a discerning postcard enthusiast, these pieces offer an unusual but telling perspective on the lives lived within their featured establishments.
From the white clapboard of Dr. Ladd's house, the original 'boys' dormitory,' and the institutional heart of the 'colony,' to the red brick and wrought iron infrastructure, these postcards capture the physical evolution of the colony, reflecting shifts in societal attitudes and the purpose of these institutions.
Notable amongst this collection are four rare postcards from the Rhode Island state reformatory, prison, and almshouse, and two extremely uncommon examples from the Ladd School in its early days as 'The Rhode Island School for the Feeble-Minded.'
These postcards are more than simply vintage collectibles. They offer glimpses into a past that was often shrouded in silence and stigma. The handwritten messages, stamps, and postmarks add a layer of personal history, each telling a story of its own. These postcards bring attention to places like the 'sheep pen' at Rhode Island's State Hospital, the rail station at Wickford Junction—a transit point for visiting loved ones at the Exeter School—and the state tuberculosis hospital at Wallum Lake.
While these places were often regarded with dread or discomfort in their time, the messages of the postcards—ranging from hopeful to forlorn—suggest a complex tapestry of experiences. They bear witness to the resilience and endurance of those who lived within these institutions, giving voice to those often left out of traditional historical narratives.
Twenty-five vintage and antique postcards from state and private institutions in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island.