June 15, 2004 – A St. Thomian's collection of historic memorabilia is the treasure-trove tapped for the unique art exhibition that will open on Friday at Alexander's Bella Blu restaurant in Frenchtown: "Old Time St. Thomas — the Vintage Postcard Collection of Ronnie Lockhart."
Lockhart, a fourth-generation Virgin Islander, began collecting historic postcards just a few years ago, after he was introduced to the idea by fellow members of the St. Thomas Historical Trust. The images in his collection represent "a natural extension of Lockhart's interest in the historical architecture and culture of the island," a release states.
Picture postcards evolved in the United States after the enactment in 1898 of a federal law allowing entities other than the U.S. Post Office to print "Private Mailing Cards." According the release, the images being exhibited at Bella Blu offer "a glimpse into the island's past and an intriguing reference to what we see today."
Lockhart says he started his personal collection "when one came up for sale on eBay." In addition to shopping online, he has acquired some cards locally, at sales and through word of mouth. All are photographic images; about 95 percent show St. Thomas scenes, but he also has some of St. John and St. Croix.
The oldest postcard he has dates from 1899, the first year after they became legal for postal purposes. But "the one rare one" in his collection "shows the old cable office after it burned in 1909," he says. "I found that on eBay. It cost $77, but it's worth it."
He has eased off from online shopping for St. Thomas cards, though, because "there are so many of them out there," and he has come to the point where "a lot of them I see are duplicates" of images he already has.
On display at Bella Blu will be 80 framed cards dating from the start of the 20th century through the 1940s. Lockhart chose them for the show because of their historical interest or unusual depictions of St. Thomas.
He never met any of the photographers, he says, but he does know the son of one and the granddaughter of another.
At the show, 8 x 10 reproductions of the postcard pictures will be available for purchase for $15. By agreement of Lockhart, Bella Blu and Gallery St. Thomas whose owner, Claire Ochoa, coordinates the monthly exhibitions at the restaurant 20 percent of the proceeds from sales will be donated to the Historic Trust to support its projects, notably the renovation of a Back Street building for use as an office.
Lockhart is an active member of the organization, serving on its board and several of its committees.
Ochoa says the postcards offer "a fascinating look into the island's past from the early 1900s through images that are now historical and cultural references." In putting the show together, she says, "I have learned a lot!"
Friday's reception is from 5 to 7 p.m. The exhibition will hang through July 15.
For more information, visit the Gallery St. Thomas Web site or call Ochoa at 777-6363.
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