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Fifty Ways to Use PostcardsPostcard display in the V&A shop

Postcard display in the V&A shop


Postcards are a cheap and widely available resource. A postcard collection can become an invaluable tool for a teacher, because the same cards can be used in endless different ways. The teaching ideas here are aimed at catching students' interest before, during or after a museum visit, but most can also be adapted to form part of normal classroom teaching, for any age group or ability.

Some of these activities involve the teacher choosing certain sorts of postcards relevant to the subject being worked on. Others are to do with developing skills, so any sort of postcard can be used. If the activity requires the caption to be hidden, use masking tape rather than felt-tip pen, which can 'bleed' through. If multiples of the same card are needed, try asking around museums to see if they have any surplus or old stock they can give you.

Preparing for a museum visit

1 Card games

Play variations on card games to get students thinking about the defining characteristics of the objects you want to explore.

Pelmanism: can be played by any number of players. Spread out the cards face down so that they are not touching. The first player turns over two cards so that the others can see them. If the cards have the same image, the player picks them up and keeps them, then turns over two more. The player continues to do this until the two cards do not match, in which case they are replaced, face down, in the position from which they were picked up. The next player has a turn. If a card is turned up which is the same as one that has already been turned and replaced, the player must try to remember where the match was, hoping to make a pair. When all of the cards have been taken, the player with most pairs is the winner.

A. Assemble a collection of pairs of postcards; about 12 pairs for two to three players are sufficient. Mask the captions on the back with identical masking tape. Play pelmanism.

B. Assemble a collection of postcards, each different. Play pelmanism. When it becomes apparent that no two cards are alike, explain that they are paired but do not look the same. Players can only keep the pairs if they can explain what it is that links the cards. This can be made more stretching if there is a rule stating that any reason for linking cards can only be used once, or that two reasons must be given.

C. Cut postcards in half and play pelmanism by matching the halves.

D. Collect cards that are different but have some common features, such as subject, materials (natural or manmade), period, artist or culture. Play pelmanism using common features as the matching criteria.

Snap: Each player (more than two, less than six) has an equal number of cards, face down. Each player in turn adds a card, face up, onto a central pile. If a player adds a card which is identical (or has same value, e.g. two fives) to the previous one, the first person to shout 'Snap' takes all the central pile. The winner is the player who acquires all the cards. You will need a large collection of postcards made up in sets of two or four identical cards, or you could cut postcards in half.

2 Sorting
Supply about 15 postcards to sort into categories (e.g. colour, materials, function, period, manufacture, size). students can work in groups, sorting cards into at least three different categories, then comparing their choices with other groups. Or put students into the role of a curator selecting just five of the objects on the cards to create a new display. Ask for their reasons for the choice.

3  Puzzle
Cut several postcards into jigsaw pieces and mix them all up together. Ask students to reassemble the postcards.

4  Focus
Look at just one part in detail. Define the area by using a viewing frame, made by cutting a window into a larger piece of card.

5  Lateral thinking
Give out postcards from which you have cut a hole (use a 5p coin as a template). The task is to push a larger coin (10p) through the hole without tearing the card.  When ideas are exhausted, insert a pencil or straw through the hole and push a coin on the other side. Use this as a springboard to talk about use of specific language and unambiguous instructions.

6  Comparing
Cut up a postcard and give out one piece only. From clues in the fragment, let students describe or draw what they think the complete object looks like. Feed out pieces one by one, letting them amend their perceptions with each piece. Find the correct fragments in the archaeologist's game

7  Symmetry
Cut a postcard showing a symmetrical object or pattern in half.  Hand it out and ask students to draw in the other half, or hold up a mirror to show the missing half. Look for rotational symmetry in patterns by pinning the card in the centre and turning it.


8  Personal choice
Ask students to choose their own card from your collection and then explain their choice to everyone else.

9  Sharpen up accuracy in describing things
Group students in pairs back to back: give one a postcard of a costumed figure, then ask him or her to describe it so that the other is able to draw it. This can be made easier if you trace an outline of the figure first, to help the second student.

Find five postcards of yellow things, preferably all similar objects. Ask students to choose one secretly, and describe it to the rest of the group. How easy is it to identity the correct postcard from the description? Can the description be refined? Turn this exercise on its head by asking for statements which do not help to distinguish the object. The student who can give out most statements before the object is identified is the winner!

10  Nouns & adjectives
Ask for ten nouns and ten adjectives to describe what a card depicts.

11  Miming
Stick a postcard onto a student's forehead (use a band with the card tucked into it) without the student seeing what it depicts. Others need to mime clues to help the student identify it.

12  Who? What? Why?
Ask students to supply a speech balloon. If it were a car, what would it be? Why? Ask them to write down their reasons.

13  Text and image
Collect postcards that have both images and writing on them. Make a note of all the different writing and then photocopy the cards and blank out the writing. Give out the photocopies and the writing separately and ask students to pair them up. Ask them what influenced them - context, amount of space, tone of language? How does tone - formality, homeliness, ease, vigour or references ( to the language of the Bible, or of childhood) - match the style of the artist or the object depicted?

Art & design

14  Perspective
Make a three-dimensional version of a landscape. This activity works with cards where there is a clear foreground, middle ground and background. You will need three copies of the same card. From the first card, cut out the foreground and set aside the rest. Using the second card, cut across the line which separates the middle ground from the background and set aside the background. Using some of the discarded card to make a stand, recreate the picture fixing the three parts about a centimetre apart from each other.

15  Portraits
Find three portrait postcards (painted or photographs) and ask what information can be deduced about each sitter, from facial expression, clothes, body language, background or the items with which they are pictured. Read example descriptions of people from postcards

16  Categories
Find 24 cards about two different artists or craftspeople or schools of work. Give each a number and then display in no set order. Ask students to work in pairs and establish which category each card belongs to and why. Ask for reasons, and whether others agree with them. As each card is categorised, redisplay it so that eventually they are all grouped like with like.

17  Patterns & repetition
Use postcards to stimulate work on patterns. Use a photocopier to make repeats for wallpapering the inside of a shoe box. Or cut out a motif along a stem and join it to the stem of another design to create a new pattern.

18  Details
If you are going to explore a large object or artwork, prepare students by showing a postcard which depicts a detail first. Discuss what the whole might be like, or what it may be trying to achieve, before looking at the complete object (in the museum or on another postcard). Are students' views changed? Are there disadvantages in looking at large objects?

19  Changing perceptions
Cut a postcard into vertical strips and reassemble with spaces in between. Ask students to join up the strips. How is the picture distorted? Can they draw an outline of what they think the picture should look like? Was it easier if the thing depicted was familiar to them?


20  Timeline
Sequence postcards to show change over time, or to create a timeline.

21  Research & investigation
Supply a postcard of an object and find out everything you can about it. Include size and appearance; function; how it was made; style; and value. What is revealed about the times or people who made or used it? Does the manufacturing process say anything about the technology and labour organisation, or trade and transport networks?

22  V&A architecture
Find postcards showing different parts of one building. Ask what information is revealed about the structure itself, and about its builders, its occupiers and the people who worked there.

During a visit to the V&A

23 Find your object
Use postcards to ensure students are looking at the right thing: Give out a card to each student and ask them to find the object. To ensure KS1 students do not lose their postcard, they can cut round the object and make a badge or pendant to wear. Remove bits from the postcard, reassemble them and enlarge them on the photocopier. Ask students to find the object and fill in the missing parts. Photocopy a postcard in black and white, and ask students to fill in the colour. Find the backdrop to which the object on the postcard belongs, for example a teapot on the table in a period room.

24 Matching up
Supply a selection of postcards. Supply the captions separately. Match them up at the museum.

25 Up and down
Acquire postcards showing the downmarket equivalent of objects you will see in the museum you are visiting (e.g. pewter plate/porcelain plate) and ask students to find the upmarket one.

26 Outline
Ask students to draw round the outline of an object with biro so that the indent shows on reverse. Find the back of the object and draw it in onto the back of the card.

27 Missing link
Give out three postcards and ask what the link is (all owned by Henry VIII; or all for storing food; or all part of a soldier's equipment).

28 Accessories
Find portrait or costume postcards, where the shoes or hats do not show. At the museum, find suitable shoes or hats. Alternatively, give out postcards of shoes or hats, and find the costumes.


29 Labels
Start students writing by adding labels to postcards of the objects that they see.

30 Captions
Ask for two new captions for a postcard: one for someone of a similar age, one for someone younger, a five-year old for example.

31 Panels
Make interpretation panels for people of the same age. You will need to supply sheets of A3 paper, which you have already cut in half lengthwise to form narrow strips.

Suggest that students stick a postcard at the top of the strip, along with a title. Then at the museum they can gather information, drawings and more postcards to complete their interpretation.

Assess the panels on how clearly students have been able to sort and communicate the information in ways appropriate to the audience.

32 Key card
Make a postcard the key to a story. Give out a card to groups of two or three. Ask them to find the object depicted, then to include relevant information, or descriptions of other associated objects, into a story featuring the object.

Art & Design

33 You're invited!
Design a new postcard for the museum or an invitation postcard to the opening of a new display.

34 Make a match
Give each student a postcard, then ask them to find something else with the same design or pattern.

35 Six-pack
Collect six postcards of artworks to form a pack, then ask students for an information sheet to accompany it. Different groups could write about different aspects, like symbolism, gesture, feeling or composition.


36 Treasured possessions
Build up an understanding of an artist or historical character by giving out postcards of containers - boxes, chests, or cupboards - then asking for a selection of objects that the character would most value, to put in them.

37 Well suited
Give out postcards of people in period costume. Find the furniture or room interiors to which they belong.

For example, if the dolls on the right had been real, what would they have found to sit on?

38 'Feely' card
Make a costume 'feely' card. You will need scraps of fabric cut into squares, small pieces of trimmings (fake fur, lace, ribbon) and some buttons and sequins. When students find the exhibit on their postcard, let them choose similar fabric and trimmings to stick on the backs of their postcards.

After the museum visit

39 Present information in an interesting way by making a booklet (instructions below)

40 Drawing from memory
Save two postcards of something you spent a long time looking at as a group. Cut up one card into pieces and remove some of them. Use the rest to partially re-create the image on a piece of paper, then enlarge it on the photocopier. Make enough for everyone to have a copy. Ask students to fill in the missing bits and then use the uncut postcard to see how much they have remembered.


41 Writing a letter
Find a character in a postcard and write a letter to them. Or use a collection of postcards about a topic to include in a letter purportedly from a character living at that time, e.g. use Second World War postcards to compose a letter from a land girl.

42 Storytelling
Give out postcards of paintings in which some sort of action is taking place. In groups, ask students to retell the action in story form, with a beginning, middle and ending. Mount the postcards on a storyboard (instructions below)

43 Shadow theatre

Re-tell a story, eg, the life of a saint or a Greek myth, by cutting out characters and objects from postcards and making a shadow theatre.

Art & Design

44 Self-portrait and collage
Use a postcard as a reminder of the style of an artist. Ask students to develop a self-portrait using a similar style, eg, Chagall or Freud. Or cut up a card of an abstract work and ask students to use some or all of the pieces in a collage, or as a starting point for their own work.

45 Framing
Ask students to choose a postcard of an object they particularly liked on their visit, then to design a frame to suit the image. Let the imagination run free.

46 Message
Give each student a postcard by an artist whose life or interests they know something about. Ask students to write a message on the back of the postcard either from the artist saying something about his or her current thoughts, or to them. Messages can be frivolous or friendly or concerned or whatever. For instance: 'Dear Vincent, how is your poor ear?' Read out some of the results. Look for evidence that students have tried to include something that relates to the individual artist.

47 Techniques and styles
Collect cards from the same artist which illustrate different techniques or periods of work. Ask students to spot the differences.


48 Peep box
Objects, furniture and people from other times or countries are exotic. They carry a flavour of the strange and mysterious. Scenes painted by artists carry some of that individual's imagination to the viewer.Make a miniature garden or room. Postcards are an accessible way of catching this exciting mixture, and of using it to create a fantasy of one's own. One way of doing this is to make a peep box. Cut around postcard figures of people, furniture and objects from the same period and arrange as a room or garden setting within a shoebox. (instructions below)

49 Annotation
To show how one piece of historical evidence can be used in a variety of ways, give each student a postcard and a piece of transparent acetate of the same size. Ask them to hinge the acetate over the card (use Sellotape down one side) and, using fine felt-tip pens, to annotate the picture to explain what it tells us about the past.

Make sure that you have at least six postcards of each object.Display the results and compare what different students have done with the same image.

50 Mobile
Make a dynasty mobile, eg, of royalty. Use the whole postcard or cut out the figures.

More ideas

More lateral thinking

Lateral thinking is about looking at all possible interpretations or explanations. The examples here are both concerned with how we use language. They can be a starting point to talk about specific language and unambiguous instructions.

Through the postcard
Use the postcard with the hole in it again, and the coin, and ask for another way of pushing the coin through the postcard. This time the answer is to fold the card over to make a tube, then push the coin through it.

Into the postcard
Find a postcard of an artwork and ask students to 'step into the postcard'. When they have come up with as many suggestions as possible, give them a copy of the postcard, some scissors and the instructions below, which are split into making the grid and cutting the lines. At the end, the postcard will open up into a continuous ribbon, which they can literally step through.

Making the grid
If you want students to draw the grid onto their postcards, it is easiest to start by drawing in a framework, into which the cutting lines fit. It is a good idea to do this framework in pencil, which can be erased later to leave just the cutting lines.


1.  In pencil, draw an inner box, about one centimetre from the edge of the postcard. Draw a centre line lengthways within the box. (See 1 above)

2.  Still in pencil, draw a line on each side of the centre line, about one centimetre away and parallel to it. (See 2 above).


3. Using a ballpoint or felt-tip pen, draw straight lines parallel to the short edges of the box. These should be evenly spaced, about one centimetre apart. Do not go beyond the edges of the box. (See 3 above).

4. Still using ballpoint or felt-tip pen, draw straight lines halfway between the lines you have just drawn in the box. Start at the edge of the postcard (ie outside the box) and stop at the line you drew in about a centimetre from the centre line. (See 4 above)

5. Lastly, rub out all the pencil lines.


Cutting the lines
6. Cut the card along the grid lines to make the step-through postcard. (See 6 above)

7. Use a photocopier to produce a copy which is the exact size of the card that is being cut up, so that students can paste the grid on the back of the card before they start cutting. It is best to start by folding the card in half lengthways and cutting along the centre line, leaving a centimetre at each end uncut, as indicated. (see 7 above)

8. While the card is still folded, cut the lines going out to the outer edge next. Again, make sure to stop about a centimetre in from the edge. (See 8 above)

9. Then open the card and cut the lines going in from the edges. Take care not to cut all the way to the centre line. (See 9 above)

More comparing


Archaeologists are experts at looking very closely at objects. They do not often find complete objects, so they usually have to work with small fragments instead. They look at other objects of a similar nature that are complete, to see if their fragment has any common features.

The Archaeologist's Game
This game replicates the archaeologist's process. A complete outline of an object is shown below. Beneath it, there are a number of fragments from both this object and other similar objects, all mixed up. Which fragments belong to the complete object? Choose the fragments you think make up this object and click on them to see if you are correct.

More words

Clock (detail), 1896-1901, Museum no. W.5:1-2-1998

Clock (detail) designed by C F A Voysey, 1896-1901, Museum no. W.5:1-2-1998

Adding words to postcards can be sentimental or subversive. They can also reinforce the mood. Encourage students to think about what the mood of the card and how it is created.

Experiment with different forms of type or writing to complement, or disrupt, the overall atmosphere. Have fun by adding a proverb or saying, or adapting one to suit your purposes.

Use a piece of acetate over the card to play around with the position and size until you decide on the final appearance.

A cat with a fish in its mouth, about 1890, Museum no. IS.261-1955

A cat with a fish in its mouth, gouache on paper, India (Kalighat), about 1890, Museum no. IS.261-1955

Embroidered hanging (detail), made for the Foley family of Stoke Edith, 1710-20, Museum no. T.568-1996

Embroidered hanging (detail), made for the Foley family of Stoke Edith, England, 1710-20, Museum no. T.568-1996

More perspective

Perspective is used in representing three-dimensional objects, or scenes, on a two-dimensional surface, like an artist's canvas.

Things appear to get smaller the further away they are, and artists have developed their own guidelines to help them represent distance accurately.

Single-point perspective is based on the fact that parallel lines appear to converge on the horizon. Postcards are a manageable way of learning to recognise and trace these lines (a ruler helps!).

'The Opening of the Great Exhibition', 1851, Museum no. 329-1889

'The Opening of the Great Exhibition by Queen Victoria on 1 May' by Henry Courtney Seleous, 1851, Museum no. 329-1889

See if students can work out where the vanishing point is in the postcard of Queen Victoria and her family at the Great Exhibition. The vanishing point lies behind her, but she appears to block it from view, which serves to make her the focal point of the picture. These lines serve to draw us into the picture, leading our eye automatically towards the vanishing point.

More portraits

Dolly Varden

'Dolly Varden', 1842, Museum no. F.8

'Dolly Varden' by William Powell Frith RA, oil on canvas, Great Britain, 1842, Museum no. F.8

The girl's face is the most striking part: she is smiling with her head thrown back so that she is looking down her nose, very confident, self-assured and lively. The girl's face, skin, and pert features look groomed and aided by cosmetics, which indicates she takes care of, and is presumably proud of, her appearance.

She is wearing a velvet coat, with black, possibly fur, trimmings and black silk at the sleeves. She has matching pink stockings and dainty high-heeled shoes with showy buckles, and is carrying a fur muff. The outer clothes seem to indicate cool weather, but the white dress and straw contradict that. The dress has a complicated arrangement at the side, as if the creamy embroidered material suggests an overdress and the white filmy part at the front is a petticoat - an echo of Little Bo Peep. It isb fanciful, contrived, impractical and showy, but her confidence and enjoyment balance this out.

Her body is tilted to one side with her top half thrust forward and her hand on her waist, to draw attention to its narrowness. It is a theatrical, flirtatious pose, but with an element of fun in it.

The background is indistinct, except that the brown suggests trees, and there appears to be a trailing branch. There is a view of a misty distance to the left. It gives the impression of being unreal, a fantasy, which fits in with the Little Bo Peep dress.

Dolly Varden was a fictional character in Barnaby Rudge, by Charles Dickens. Her main characteristic was her flirtatiousness, together with her liking for pretty clothes.

Isambard Kingdom Brunel

Isambard Kingdom Brunel, 1857, Museum no. PH.246-1979

'Isambard Kingdom Brunel and the launching chains of The Great Eastern' by Robert Howlett, albumen print, Great Britain, 1857, Museum no. PH.246-1979

The man is staring into the middle distance, as if he is doing some serious thinking, and not at all interested in the camera. He has not bothered to remove his cigar, and he obviously feels in control, or on his own territory. His face is neat, with well-kept sideburns, but his hair at the back is curly and unruly. He looks as if he is someone who takes care of his appearance to keep up the social niceties, but is not vain about it.

This impression is reinforced by his clothes, which are all conventional and good quality, but his trousers and shoes are caked with mud, as if he has just stopped and got involved in some messy task. He is not at all self-conscious about it, as if it is something that happens fairly regularly. His top hat, watch chain and cravat put him in the gentleman, not workman, class.

His pose is comfortable. He has his hands in his pockets, and his weight on one leg, a common relaxed position. He looks at home, almost arrogantly unconcerned about anyone else.

Taking up nearly all the background is a roll of chain made from massive links. A visitor would notice it, but he doesn't appear to, so it must be something with which he is familiar.

The overall impression is of self-containment, intelligence, determination and a lack of pretentiousness.

Isambard Kingdom Brunel was a pioneering engineer who attempted new constructions that other people said were not possible, including The Great Eastern, the biggest iron ship of its day.

Francis Williams, the Jamaican Scholar

Portrait of Francis Williams, about 1745, Museum no. P.83-1928

Portrait of Francis Williams, oil on canvas, Great Britain, about 1745, Museum no. P.83-1928

The most noticeable feature about the man's face is the eyes. He is looking straight at the artist, and us, in an intense, challenging way. The mouth is unsmiling and pinched. He looks serious, dignified and stern.

It was not usual for black people to be painted in this conventional western way, so he may be making a point that he, as a rich person, has as much right as anyone else to take his place in society.

He is richly and tastefully dressed in a dark blue velvet coat, matching trousers and a grey silky waistcoat. The coat and waistcoat are trimmed with gold. He has a cravat and wig.

Everything is correct and neat. It gives the appearance of a wealthy person with a comfortable lifestyle.He is standing, despite a chair being nearby, so he is being deliberately formal. He has his hand on a book on the table, which draws our attention to it. He is saying that he is an educated, bookish person. This is emphasised by the fact that his other hand is pointing to the heavily laden bookshelves.

The painter has not got the figure in proportion (he has the same trouble with the furniture). The fact that the head is larger than it should be, and the hands, legs and feet smaller, may just be a quirk of the artist, but it may also be saying that here is a scholarly man who does not need big, workingman's hands and legs.

By his feet and on the table are globes, showing that Francis Williams has an interest in the natural world. On the table are quills and compasses, which again point to his interest in things to do with the intellect. The room has fine, decorated furniture, but is dominated by the bookshelves. Hanging in front of the books is a dark blue velvet curtain tied back with the gold cord. This gives a visual link between the man and his books.

To the left is a picture or a window. The scene is a hot sunny landscape, so Francis Williams is either living somewhere exotic (if it is a window), or wishes he were (if it is a picture).

The whole effect is slightly uncomfortable. The links to the man's love of books are too many and laboured, as if he is proving a point. The sitter looks challenging rather than at ease with himself.

Francis Williams was a poet and scholar. He was born into a rich family in Jamaica, at a time when most black people there were either slaves or very poor. Few black people were painted in this formal way.

More stencils

Stencils are an alternative to printing when making a pattern or decorating objects, but they take time to prepare. Cutting an image out of a postcard is a fast track to making a stencil. Choose an image with a simple outline and few inner details. Craft knives are normally used to cut stencils, but scissors are easier. Cut in from the edge and tape up the join later.

If you want to use more than one colour, you will need to leave a little bridge of card to separate that part from the main body. This then gives distinct areas, which you colour separately. Details can be added by using a second stencil, or by hand.

Making a flick book

Use a postcard stencil to make a flick book. A flick book has an image on each page. These are the 'stills' of a figure caught in action. The pages show the consecutive 'stills' and when you turn the pages quickly, your eye cannot keep up with each image, but sees them blurred into each other. The result is that the image appears to move.

Choose a postcard with a simple image to make into a stencil. The flick book will be made from plain postcards, so the image should be less than half the size of a normal postcard. Think up a simple movement for the figure to perform. Then make a composite sketch of the action, so you know how much space you are going to need.


  • 10 plain postcards
  • Scissors
  • Tape
  • Stencil
  • Brush and paint (or felt tip pens to draw just the outline)
  • Ruler
  • Pencil
  • Eraser
  • Heavy duty stapler, otherwise hole punch and cord

This flick book is based on the simplest possible movement: a butterfly which lands on a cat's nose, with movement in the cat's eyes and tail.



1. Draw in a vertical and an horizontal line which cross at the centre of the image.

2Cut out the image, leaving bridges of card to allow changes of colour when stencilling. The stencil is the postcard with the image removed.

3.If there is an interior detail (e.g. the face) that you want to include, cut round it and cut out details you want to appear in your flick image (eg, the eyes). Treat it as another stencil to use with the main one.


4. Draw a vertical and horizontal line on the right-hand side of the plain postcards, to cross at the centre of the image. This is the guide for applying the stencil in exactly the same place on each card.

5. Stencil in the main image, or draw in the outline.

6.Use the second stencil to fill in details if necessary.



7. Draw in additional details. Rub out the horizontal and vertical guidelines.

8-12. Add the action details.

13. Add a thick back cover (several postcards glued together).

14. Secure the postcards at the left-hand side with a heavy-duty stapler or punched holes and some cord (you will need to use one punch hole at a time).

15. Flick!

More changing perceptions


Cutting up and reassembling postcards gives an insight into how shapes can be stretched, compressed, and turned around, and how they change in response. It is also an easy first step to pulling away from realism and playing with shapes that still contain references to actual objects, people or scenes, but are no longer a wholly naturalistic portrayal of them.

Below are some ideas. It is best to number each piece of the back before cutting, then to mark the top of each with a T. Arrange the pieces into the image you want before beginning to glue them onto a sheet of card.

Making waves

Cut a postcard into strips vertically and reassemble.

Create a wavy image by pulling down and pushing up individual strips. Narrow strips are best, but fiddly to handle and keep track of.

Double vision

Cut two postcards into two centimetre strips, then alternate the strips to make both images in one picture.

To begin with, use two cards that contrast in colour and form, then move onto cards which are less contrasting.

Make variations on this by cutting one card into narrower (one centimetre) strips.

Spaced out

Cut out a shape, e.g. a person or an animal, and cut it into thin strips.

Glue it onto another postcard, spaced out.

Mosaic medley

Cut a postcard into equal squares, then rearrange them.

Or turn all the squares upside down or through a half turn.

Or turn just a few squares.


Cut a postcard into a fan shape, or cut along curved lines (use a large bowl, turned upside down), or draw freehand lines.

Trim and cut out pieces as you reassemble the card.

Vary the space between each piece.

Making a display booklet

Concertina book
Sellotape the cards edge to edge, leaving just enough space to allow flexibility.

Fan-fold spine book
This is a different way to display postcards. When closed, the book is compact, but it opens up to reveal six or more cards, with space for information.


  • A3 sheet of thin card
  • Glue
  • Ruler
  • Pencil
  • Two small circles of card
  • Two paper fasteners
  • Wool or thin string for the fastening



1. Take two postcards and position one in the top left-hand corner and one in the bottom right.

Mark their positions and remove.

2.The central space between the two postcards will form the fan. (for standard-sized postcards this is 12 cm)

Mark off the remaining central space into four equal parts (three cm) and draw lines down from the top to the bottom edge.

3. Fold along the first line by bringing the left-hand side of the card over to the right.

Turn the card over and fold along the next line. Continue folding along the marked lines from each side in turn to make a concertina effect.


4.Pull the card out flat and position a postcard at the top with its right side edge along the central crease.

Glue this edge onto the concertina strip which makes up the right side of the central crease.

5.Do the same again with another postcard along the last crease to the right, so that it partly lies over the first postcard.

6.A) Position a postcard at the bottom of the central crease, but this time align its left-hand edge against the central crease. Glue as before.

B) Repeat with a postcard positioned with its left-hand edge touching the first crease (ie, to the left of the preceding card).


7. Push the folds of the concertina together and close the card like a book.

Press the folds hard to help the glue to stick and to reinforce the folds.

8. Open up the card and the postcards will fan out in a line over each other.

Use the flat parts of the card to glue in more postcards or for writing explanatory text.


9. Make a fastener for the fan book, by cutting out two circles.

Thread a paper pin through the centre of each.

Make a hole with the tip with a sharp pencil half way down each side of the card, so that they line up with each other when the book is closed.

Fix in the circles with the paper clips on the outer cover.

Use thread wound round each circle to keep the book closed shut.

10. Add more cards and a title to the outer covers.

Hole punch booklet

Tie together with string or ribbon. If many cards are used, careful measuring is needed to align the holes

Spiral bound booklet

Make a series of regular punch holes and use plastic-covered wire. Thread the wire round a pencil to keep the binding loose enough for the pages to turn.

Writing a story and making a storyboard

Stories need a beginning, middle and end. The beginning sets the scene or introduces the characters. It needs to be clear or the reader loses interest. The middle contains the action. The end can either resolve the action cleanly, or pose questions for the reader to think about.

Here is an idea for building up storytelling skills, using the postcard the students had at the museum, or one which is new to them. (Use a figure or figures, human or animal, or a scene from a painting.)

Ask students for a story in six or eight sentences or short paragraphs, based on a postcard. The story must include a beginning, middle and end. Leave a big space between paragraphs so that it is easy to cut the sheet into pieces, each containing a separate paragraph.

Example story


Based on the figure in the image on the right.

Mr Green lived at Number 15 Pinfold Lane, with Rocky the Rooster.

The people next door hated Rocky because he crowed very loudly at 5am every morning, every day.

One day Mr Green took Rocky to see a wise old man.

He had been told that he could talk to animals.

'Please tell Rocky not to crow so loudly', said Mr Green to the old man.

So the old man asked Rocky, in perfect Rooster-rap, to croon his crow in future.

Rocky looked at the old man with narrowed, beady eyes, but agreed to do as he was asked.

Now Rocky has the sweetest crow ever heard, but he feels the need, at 5am every morning, every day, to beat out the tune of Jingle Bells with his beak, hard, on the bedroom window of the people living next door.

Making the storyboard


  • Rigid card, A3 size
  • Hole punch
  • String - about a metre, with a bead or button tied to one end
  • Glue
  • Scissors
  • Thick felt tip pen



1.Paste the postcard at the top of the board, which should be used in portrait format.

Lay out the story pieces, in order, on a flat surface - eventually these pieces will form two equal columns, one down each side of the board.

Place the first piece of the story about two-thirds down the left-hand side of the board.

2.Place the next piece of the story anywhere on the opposite, right-hand side.

3.Add the third piece to any space on the left side, and so on.

4.Neaten up the columns of story pieces so that they line up with each other.

Glue them in place.

5. Use a hole punch to make a hole next to the start of the story.

Thread the piece of string through the hole (opposite end to the bead).

Secure the string by tying it round the edge of the board.

6. Use the hole punch to make a neat, semi-circular notch in the edge of the board against each of the other story pieces.


7. Find the second piece of the storyline.

Pull the string over the front of the board and slot it into the notch next to it.

8. Take the string round the back of the board to come up at the left side again.


9. Find the next piece of the storyline and repeat the process until you have reached the end of the story and the string is wound entirely around the board.

10. Mark on the back of the board the path of each section of string.

Unwind the string and invite a different group to read the story.

First, they need to read all the disjointed sections.

Then ask them to sequence the pieces, winding the string through each successive notch.If they have got it right, the string will lie over the lines marked on the back of the board.

You may want to make a board which can be used more than once. Use Velcro to stick down the postcard and the story pieces. Then attach a clean sheet of paper on the reverse (use Blu-Tac). This can be replaced each time the board is used.

Making a peepbox


  • Selection of postcards to use whole, or to cut images from
  • Shoe box
  • Tracing paper or coloured tissue paper
  • Scissors
  • Sellotape
  • Glue



1. Remove the lid and cut a peephole to look through at one end of the box. Cut one or two small windows out of each side (about three cm square), not directly opposite each other.

2. Cut three windows out of the lid, one very near one end.


3. Place a postcard at the end of the box opposite the peephole.

4. Cut shapes out of other cards to add at the sides. When cutting, include a margin at one side, to fold at right angles and glue to the peep box side.

5. Cut out figures to add interest. Fix an extra strip of card onto the back, with a base tab that folds at right angles to stick to the bottom of the box.

6. When everything is in place, place the lid on top, with the end window farthest away from the peephole. Adjust the lighting by covering the lid and side windows with a book or hand to find the right level. Block windows that you are not using with black sugar paper. Then cover the rest with tracing paper, which will diffuse the light. To create different atmospheres, use coloured tissue paper over the windows.

To create a feeling of distance, insert a spyglass, normally used for security on front doors, into the peephole.


Interactive Map

Discover the many treasures in the beautiful V&A galleries, find out where events are happening in the Museum or just check the location of the café, shops, lifts or toilets. Simple to use, the V&A interactive map works on all screen sizes, from your tablet or smartphone to your desktop at home.

Launch the Interactive Map