Tall Tale Postcards Exhibit Opens at CWU’s Museum of Culture and Environment | CWU Public Affairs

Storytelling through the Mail: Tall Tale Postcards, a new exhibit at CWU's Museum of Culture and Environment

By: Valerie Chapman-Stockwell
Posted: Sept. 28, 2011

Imagine a land where corn grows to the size of tree trunks, where the lakes are so cold that the trout have fur coats, and where deer have become hunters and men are their prey. These assorted oddities come vividly to life in Storytelling through the Mail: Tall Tale Postcards, a new exhibit at Central Washington University’s Museum of Culture and Environment.

Featuring more than 80 examples of “tall tale” postcards from around the United States, Storytelling through the Mail: Tall Tale Postcards demonstrates a unique form of popular humor dating back to the early 20th century. Other items in the exhibit include taxidermy specimens, newspaper cartoons and magazine covers, all of which help to tell the story of the tall-tale postcard. This exhibit is on loan from the Michigan State University Museum and will be in Ellensburg through January 2012.

On October 6, the Museum will host the opening reception of this fascinating exhibit at 4:00 p.m. in Dean Hall on the CWU campus. The event will feature acclaimed storyteller and folksinger Hank Cramer and his wife, Kit, who will recount stories of life in the American West and talk about tall tales, which are considered to be a unique American art form.

Tall tales are humorous stories of exaggeration or fictional accounts that are presented as the truth. They often involve ludicrous or absurd imagery, which is why tall-tale postcards are so popular. Artists easily create tall-tale scenes on postcards by piecing together regular-size images with enlargements or by juxtaposing two images that would not normally go together. Although illustrated tall-tale postcards were common, it is the trickery of photography that characterizes much of the genre.

Storytelling Through the Mail features masters of the genre, from the golden age of American postcard production in the early twentieth century to the present. The exhibit is witty, visually appealing, and—most importantly—fun.

The Storytelling Through the Mail: Tall Tale Post Cards exhibition is a Michigan Traditional Arts Program activity made possible by the financial and in-kind support of the Michigan State University Museum, Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs, the ANR Week Program Committee, and the Elizabeth Halsted Lifelong Education Endowment.

The MCE is located on the first floor of Dean Hall. Admission to the museum is free and it is open to the public Wednesday through Friday from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., and on Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Parking at CWU is free after 4:30 p.m. and on weekends.

For more information, contact Museum@cwu.edu or go to www.cwu.edu/~museum.

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