History of postcard publisher Valentines celebrated in V&A exhibition

The Dundee company was known as one of the city's most successful employers for over 150 years.

History of Dundee postcard and greetings card publisher Valentines celebrated in V&A exhibition V&A Dundee
Valentines: History of iconic greetings card company celebrated in new exhibition.

An exhibition which explores the history of a postcard and greetings card publisher in Dundee is set to open at the V&A.

Known as one of Dundee’s most successful employers, Valentines popularised the picture postcard by capitalising on rapid developments in photography, printing and tourism in the early 20th century. 

Developed in collaboration with the University of St Andrews, Sincerely, Valentines - From Postcards to Greetings Cards is a partnership between V&A Dundee and curatorial practice Panel, which uncovers the compelling story behind the company.

More than 40 families with connections to Valentines came forward to contribute to the exhibition, which celebrates the workforce, design process and output of the Dundee firm, which operated for 150 years in the city. 

V&A Dundee

The exhibition features postcards, photographic negatives, prints, sales catalogues, workplace publications and magazines, which are on loan from the Valentine Photographic Collection at the University of St Andrews and private lenders. 

New work commissioned by exhibition curators Catriona Duffy and Lucy McEachan of Panel includes a series of oversized postcards by graphic designer Maeve Redmond and a film by Rob Kennedy, which features stories and memories individuals who worked at the company from the 1950s to the 1990s.

Andrew Valentine, great-great grandson of founder James Valentine, said: “As the last member of the Valentine family who worked in Valentine and Sons, it is wonderful to be able to help to celebrate the major contribution the company made in both their pioneering work in photography and design, and their proud record as a major employer in Dundee.

“I am the sixth generation, but the Sincerely, Valentines exhibition is about the skill of the earlier five generations who gave all their working lives to the company, and the dedication of a very loyal workforce. Without them, none of the worldwide success of the company would have been possible.

V&A Dundee

“My brother Malcolm and I decided several years ago that the achievements of the company had never been properly recognised. Jute, jam and journalism have all quite rightly been given their place as major contributors to Dundee, but we believed we also deserved our place and were determined to see that happen. 

“Sadly, Malcolm died in 2016, and it was not until two years later that I approached the V&A Dundee team with a view to mounting a major exhibition, backed by the Valentine Photographic Archive which is preserved by the St Andrews University Library.

“Right from that very first meeting, the enthusiasm of the entire team has made this an extremely rewarding project in which to be involved. Sincerely, Valentines – From Postcards to Greetings Cards is the result of great help and support by many people. My one regret is that the earlier members of the family and the workforce are not here to see Valentine and Sons recorded in such a professional way.”

Leonie Bell, director at V&A Dundee, said: “V&A Dundee is delighted to welcome people from across the city and beyond to enjoy this fascinating free exhibition celebrating Dundee firm Valentines, which with the help of its workforce grew from a family business to become one of the most successful and innovative publishers of postcards in the world. 

“Their story, told beautifully in the exhibition, weaves together many stories from design and social history through to personal memories and nostalgia for the past.”