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Suspension Bridge (1907) from the postcard collection of Paul F. Bien (ID: ocp002482pcpfb) / Image from the collection of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County // Published: 11.28.17

The Greater Cincinnati Memory Project Compiled Thousands Of Awesome Retro Postcards

Back in October, a columnist for the New York Observer tweeted that “nobody goes to libraries anymore” — and it went viral. Twitter, an easily-agitated beast comprised of blood-thirsty users lying in wait to annihilate anyone with gratuitous claims, immediately lunged at the chance to prove him wrong.

As a fan of the library myself, it was nice to see scores of people stepping up to refute his statement. Libraries are one of the best free places anyone can visit for a variety of reasons, beyond just checking out a book. And many of us use it daily.

Our Public Library of Hamilton County (PLCH) is no exception to that rule. While it’s certainly the ultimate resource for public knowledge through tangible literature, it also features a plethora of unbeatable online resources (especially if you’re into local history).

The Greater Cincinnati Memory Project is one such resource. PLCH meticulously put it together 17 years ago, and it boasts over 6,000 photos of historic Cincinnati and the surrounding region by pulling from the archives of seven participating area libraries and museums. Everything in the database is pre-1940, meaning only the oldest of the old photos are available to see through the site.

And the best part: anyone can use it for the low, low price of FREE.

In addition to old photos, postcards make up a significant portion of the database. They exist now as a unique mix of artistry and history despite initially being designed for sharing a glimpse of Cincinnati's scenes and monuments with non-locals. When viewing them today, however, they act as a portal to Gilded Age Cincinnati before WWII; something many of us never experienced ourselves. It is, without exaggeration, a priceless asset to both professional and hobbyist historians alike.

In the gallery above, you’ll see a few examples of these old postcards found within the Greater Cincinnati Memory Project. For many more, head to PLCH’s website (linked below). Had the library not compiled and digitized these images, we wouldn’t be able to view them all in one convenient place.

While you don’t have to technically go to the library to access it, that New York Observer columnist is still wrong. PLCH is a place where people go, both physically and digitally, to get real data about their world. Next time, I suggest he does the same.

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The Greater Cincinnati Memory Project is searchable here. PLCH is located at 800 Vine Street (45202).

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