[Unfortunately, The Mount Holyoke News didn't archive this back issue, but this is the text of the article. I didn't have a copy of the photo Jess took of me, so this photo is different from the original article.]
Donna Albino '83 shows off her online archive of Mount Holyoke postcards - the product of 15 years of collecting and three years of web work. Donna's collection contains postcards from as early as 1902 up through the puzzlegrams one can buy in the bookstore today.
MHC in history, in letters, and on the Web
Donna Albino '83 tracks down Cornelia Clapp, MHC cigarette holders, and pastes campus posties online
By Jessica Liese '01
Donna Albino '83 acquired her first Mount Holyoke postcard at a flea market in Provincetown in 1985. The card was postmarked 1907 and the inscription read, "Dear Carrie, I visited Mount Holyoke College last Friday and had a fine time. There are about 700 girls up there. Yours sincerely, Julia."
"I thought, 'this is great!'" says Albino. "'Who's Carrie? Who's Julia? What was she doing at Mount Holyoke?'"
This curiosity inspired an impressive collection and one of Mount Holyoke's most interesting alumnae websites. Albino's collection now contains over 2,000 pieces of Mount Holyoke memorabilia - each holding its own rich piece of Mount Holyoke history.
Inspired not so much by the postcards themselves as by the messages on them, Albino began to follow up on her curiosity by visiting the Mount Holyoke archives. She strove to discover the identity of the authors and recipients based on clues in the messages, such as initials, mentions of people or places, or first names.
In late 1996, fellow alumna Margo Burns '79 suggested to Albino that she put her collection online. Over the course of a weekend, Albino's website, with an initial batch of 125 cards, was published. Armed with a scanner, Burns's web expertise, and Albino's postcard albums, and fueled by enthusiasm for the subject matter, the two women worked tirelessly to put the site online. "We worked for 36 hours straight," Albino said, "with nothing to eat in the house but stale Christmas cookies."
Today, Internet users can not only view images of the postcards, but also the messages written on them. They can also read background information on the recipients and authors of the messages. In addition, Albino has recently added a chat room and e-cards to the site, to inspire visitors to communicate with each other and with her.
About once a month, Albino makes the trek from her Boston home to South Hadley to do research in the archives and update her website. Accurate records for each individual student['s dormitory address] were not kept until 1903, so she does occasionally reach dead ends in her research.
Help in deciphering cryptic messages, however, has come from many unexpected sources. Through an early inquiry in the Alumnae Quarterly as well as through her website, Albino has been in contact with many alumnae and relatives of alumnae who help her expand her database. She is also in touch with other collectors, including Katherine Klein Kuckens '75, who loaned Albino pieces from her own collection to be included on the site.
Albino's collection consists of mainly postcards, but she also has stereoviews, scrapbooks, letters, albums, books, and many other paper items. Among the more curious items in her collection are a 1930s cigarette case bearing the Mount Holyoke seal and a collection of records made by the V8s in the 1950s. One of her postcards, describing Mountain Day, was written by Cornelia Clapp to her mother in 1902. There is a story behind each item in Donna's collection - often, there is also an interesting story pertaining to how and where she acquired the item.
"I'm always on the lookout for cards," Albino says. "I do the circuit. I do them all - card shows, flea markets, antique shows." She is an avid buyer and seller on eBay, the online auction house, especially during the winter months when there are fewer shows. She also has outstanding want lists with many postcard dealers, who will then contact her if they acquire items in which she might have interest.
One of the year's biggest events is the Brimfield Antique Show in Brimfield, Massachusetts, which consists of over 10,000 dealers. This semi-annual event has something for absolutely everyone, including a wealth of Mount Holyoke memorabilia for a persistent and knowledgeable collector. Two years ago at Brimfield, Donna located half a dozen extremely rare 8x10 photographs from the 1880s known as "cabinet photos." The photos are on extremely heavy cardboard and depict such Mount Holyoke scenes as the old Seminary building and Prospect Hill when it was nothing but farmland.
Albino invites current students and alumnae alike to visit her site and e-mail her with any questions or comments. She is always happy to talk about anything related to Mount Holyoke history or postcard collecting.
To view Donna Albino's collection, visit http://www.mtholyoke.edu/~dalbino.