Lake County officials prepare to transfer ownership of postcard collection

After decades of stewardship, the Lake County Forest Preserve District is in the homestretch of transferring ownership of its world renowned Curt Teich Postcard Archives collection to a new home.

Pending expected official approval next week, The Newberry library in Chicago will become keeper of the enormous and diverse collection of illustrations. From a sweeping curve along Route 66 to the thundering water of Niagara Falls, the iconic postcard images depicting towns, cities, landmarks and landscapes and other slices of life from the U.S. and other countries are considered a visual history of the 20th Century through which people shared experiences.

Forest board President Ann Maine likened the donation of the long-held collection to that of sad but proud parents as kids leave the nest.

"We mentored it, took care of it and watched it grow," Maine said Monday, as the board's education, cultural resources and public affairs committee considered the transfer. "I think it's a very good thing we're doing - putting something in the right place."

In April, the district authorized the staff to negotiate an agreement with The Newberry.

The collection contains postcards and production files used by the Teich company to fill orders. The gift will include an endowment of $527,258 as of July.

One of the Lake County Discovery Museum's holdings, the Teich archive contains an estimated 3 million postcards and related materials and is considered the largest public collection in the world.

It includes a 2012 gift of 35,500 individual cards known as the "Oilette" series produced in the early 20th century by London-based Raphael Tuck & Sons. The gift, valued at $260,000, was from Leonard A. Lauder, chairman emeritus of The Estee Lauder Cos. Inc.

"It's going to open the world to the possibilities," the district's education director Nan Buckardt said of the move. "We just don't have the resources to expand the usership in the way it deserves."

The forest district, which operates the museum, became the custodian after Curt Teich's son, Ralph, rescued truckloads of postcards from being thrown in the trash when the company closed in 1978.

Ralph Teich, a Lake Forest resident, thought it important the images stay in Lake County, said his widow, Beth. She said the move to the Newberry is good because the collection requires dedicated facilities.

"Everything has a new chapter," she said. "It's a new chapter for the collection."

The Newberry is a privately funded, independent research library dedicated to humanities, according to Alice Schreyer, the Roger and Julie Baskes vice president for collections and library services. The Teich archive will be housed in a secure, environmentally controlled 10-story building and eventually be available for research and public use and review.

The forest district's finance committee will consider the agreement Thursday and the full board will vote on the transfer Oct. 11.

To-be-scheduled "massive" and "complicated" moves will be done in two stages, with the production files first, Schreyer said. Newberry has six months after the agreement is approved to make the transfer.

The ownership transfer is expected to reduce construction costs of the forest district's new collection care facility by $800,000, and save $105,000 in annual salary and data storage costs.


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  Heather Johnson, archives coordinator for the Lake County Forest Preserve District, holds two of the more treasured Raphael Tuck & Sons post card donations. The postcards are part of the Curt Teich Postcard Archives collection that is moving to The Newberry library in Chicago. Paul Valade/, 2012
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