One of the first things I discovered in the early days of 2015: A Letter-Writing Odyssey was a fun little activity called “mail tag”–a long-distance game played by challenging pen pals to send easily obtainable ephemera. Like the art historian I am, I decided to trace back the “provenance” of this practice, and all trails seemed to lead to Bianca Jagoe: whose mail tag page is both informative and home to some of the cutest handwritten text designs I’ve ever seen.
It’s no secret that most of the little gifts I tuck into my pen pal letters are pamphlets, maps, and cards I’ve picked up during my various museum adventures. Though someone wandering through a gift shop might find the prices intimidating, museums are also treasure troves of no-cost souvenirs–there are often free exhibition postcards, gallery activity books for children (or not!), and so forth.
Wouldn’t that make a museum trip just perfect for a mail tag challenge?
Inspired by this, I’ve created a mail tag card for you to print and send off to your museum-going friends around the world. Here’s to learning more about your pen pals–and the art they love!
Some final notes:
All of the items on this mail tag (with the exception of the postcards, if you choose that option!) should be available for free. Museum-going can be expensive, of course, but always check to see what student pricing options are available, if that’s applicable to you–and most museums that do charge admission host “free days” once in a while, too!
If you live in an area that’s miles away from the nearest art collection (perhaps because you’re growing up in the middle of the Hawaiian rainforest like I did), never fear! You could also complete this challenge virtually by exploring the website of a place you’d most like to visit. Most museums offer free downloads of maps and gallery guides for you to print, and you can browse the collections online to see which artworks speak to you the most. When you’ve finished, you’ll have a completed mail tag and ideas for a future trip!
Since this challenge is a little more time-intensive than some standard mail tag activities, it might be a good idea to ask your pen pal if they would like to “play” before officially starting–or send them your own museum treasures to kick things off, and see if they’d like to do the same.