Your Valentine

This week’s exhibition was chosen by our longest-serving volunteer, Pam. Your Valentine at Kirkby Gallery back in 2012 was one of her favourites, two collections of Valentine cards brought together in one gorgeous extravaganza.

Half of the objects on display came from the Shell Heritage Art Collection, the other from MMU’s Special Collections.

From Manchester Metropolitan University, we borrowed a selection of The Laura Seddon Collection of 450 Valentine cards dating from the early 19th to the early 20th centuries. The displays here feature a selection of these beautiful, ornate handmade lace cards, alongside some unexpectedly comic cards, some very offensive to the unlucky recipient!

Shell’s interest in Valentine cards began in 1938 with the innovative idea of sending Valentine greetings to lady customers. Though the artist-designed cards had witty jokes and rhymes on motoring and petrol themes, a Shell Valentine card was not an advertisement for the company and never revealed the identity of the sender. The tradition continued until 1975, when changing attitudes meant female customers no longer appreciated being singled out as “lady motorists”.

Shell extended the collection in 1964, acquiring 200 cards from the collection of Miss Jane Samuels, founder of ‘The Valentine Shop in the Strand’, London. The cards illustrate the diverse history of Valentines from romantic messages through to satirical verse, delicate decoupage to bawdy cartoon.