Imperial Post explores Delhi, India, through the lens of tourist souvenirs. The exhibition, installed in the Tang Teaching Museum’s Kettlewell Print Study Room, explores the rise and rapid dissemination of the picture postcard in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It traces the journeys of European and Indian tourists and delves into the politics of representation, exoticism, and global capitalism underlying the visual vocabulary of popular postcards. Imperial Post investigates an era that transformed India, from the Belle Époque (1870s-1914) through the early years of independence (1948 – early 1960s). Through the lens of official and leisure travel, it probes the links among picturesque landscape, historic monuments, images designed to trigger nostalgia, and the manufacture and control of urban space.
Imperial Post’s late 19th- and 20th-century postcards, stereographs, guidebooks, maps, and other travel ephemera focus on Delhi, the capital of the Islamic Mughal dynasty since the late 1640s, of British India since 1911, and of independent India since 1947.
Materials include journals of European travelers, guidebooks from the post-1857 colonial era highlighting tourist itineraries, and postcards and stereographs depicting Islamic monuments of the city such as the Jama Masjid mosque, the Qutb mosque complex, the Red Fort, and Mughal mausoleums like Humayun’s Tomb.