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Smithsonian National Postal Museum
Washington, DC
Email Us: NPMBlog@si.edu
Interests: people, postage and the post
Recent Activity
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Kane Photo This has been a landmark year for the Smithsonian's National Postal Museum as we continue to preserve, study, and present postal history and philately at no cost to our visitors. In February, we opened a new exhibit, "Freedom Just Around the Corner: Black America from Civil War to Civil Rights," examining the African American experience from the Civil War to the Civil Rights movement through the unique lens of philatelic material and postal history. In June, we installed the British Guiana One-Cent Magenta, the world's rarest and most famous postage stamp, on long-term public display for the first time in its storied history. By July, we increased our outreach through education programs by nearly half over this time last year. All of these achievements were celebrated by the public, in the press, and online at public review websites such as Yelp and TripAdvisor. Continue reading
Posted 4 days ago at National Postal Museum
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My internship at the National Postal Museum has been seriously amazing! I was the intern for the Preservation Department under the direction of Linda Edquist (Head of Preservation), Rebecca Kennedy (Preservation Specialist), and Manda Kowalczyk (Preservation Specialist). Over the course of my time I learned about preservation standards, such as monitoring environmental and light level readings; creating four-flap enclosures, sink mats, and humidification chambers; preparing objects for exhibition by backing and wrapping or encapsulation; and engaging visitors about the 10 Agents of Deterioration. In particular, my internship focused on rehousing a series of glass negatives from various collections and the Raymond Gaillaguet Collection, which also required cataloguing. Continue reading
Posted Aug 10, 2015 at National Postal Museum
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For the past nine weeks, I have had the pleasure of being an intern at the National Postal Museum, in the Curation Department. This internship has been an opportunity of a lifetime! The more internships I do in this field, the more I find a passion for my work. Internships like the National Postal Museum make me very excited for future opportunities, and working with the curator, Nancy Pope, has led to an incredible summer. My focus this summer has been researching and writing about the Highway Post Offices (HPO). My main goal was to tell the story of the HPO bus #1, which is in NPM storage. The article will be put on the website and is the first piece of mine that will be for public viewing. All my past education has led me to this moment, and I hope to make my supervisors proud of the work that I have done. Continue reading
Posted Aug 6, 2015 at National Postal Museum
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The National Postal Museum today opened PostSecret: The Power of a Postcard. The exhibition communicates a contemporary narrative of mail and the postal service, highlighting the aesthetics of the communication tool itself and the juxtaposition between anonymity and shared experiences. It also demonstrates a unique relationship between mail, digital technology and social media. The exhibition will be open through September 2016. Continue reading
Posted Aug 3, 2015 at National Postal Museum
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I had the pleasure of working with the Preservation Department for a brief three week internship. I focused on two main projects, rehousing postal service badges, and conducting visitor observations. Rehousing, is when you create safe or secure housing for an object. In doing this, I learned the process of how to safely store artifacts, as well as how to make the proper sink mats to house them. Continue reading
Posted Jun 15, 2015 at National Postal Museum
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The world’s most famous and valuable stamp, the British Guiana One-Cent Magenta, is now on display that the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum. Prominently showcased in the museum’s William H. Gross Stamp Gallery, the stamp will be on display until November 2017, the longest and most publicly accessible showing ever. Continue reading
Posted Jun 4, 2015 at National Postal Museum
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On a beautiful spring morning in 1918 thousands of people were on hand to view a pilot take off from Potomac Park, Washington, D.C. The pilot, Lieutenant George Leroy Boyle, would be carrying sacks of mail to begin the nation’s first regularly scheduled airmail service. Boyle was one of a handful of Army Air Corps pilots were tapped to fly the mail for the Post Office Department that day. Continue reading
Posted May 13, 2015 at National Postal Museum
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The 10 Agents of Deterioration are the most common and preventable problems that cause permanent harm to any collection, no matter if you are in a museum or at home. Being aware of these “agents” allows collectors to create a plan for the long term care and preservation for their artifacts. The 10 agents are: Fire, Water, Pest, Physical Force, Neglect, Theft and Vandalism, Incorrect Temperature, Incorrect Humidity, Chemical Deterioration, and Light. Continue reading
Posted Apr 29, 2015 at National Postal Museum
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On May 1, cultural institutions around the country will participate in MayDay, a day initiated by Heritage Preservation to promote disaster preparedness and the care of artifacts. In honor of this day, the preservation and education departments have collaborated to create a matching game to engage and educate the public about the 10 Agents of Deterioration. Continue reading
Posted Apr 24, 2015 at National Postal Museum
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A rural letter carrier made news when he landed his gyrocopter on the US Capitol grounds in a protest call for campaign finance reform. The carrier was immediately arrested and did not have a chance to deliver his protest mail. This was not the first time such a device was used to carry the mail. Although it was the first wildly unsanctioned one. Continue reading
Posted Apr 16, 2015 at National Postal Museum
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For more than a decade many U.S. letter carriers made their daily rounds in vehicles that could be immobilized by three inches of snow, tip over if driving around a corner more than 25 mph, caught in a wind gust, or even by large dogs jumping on them. Continue reading
Posted Apr 9, 2015 at National Postal Museum
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“Freedom Just Around the Corner: Black America from Civil War to Civil Rights” opened February 12 at the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum. The museum’s first exhibition devoted entirely to African American history marks 150 years since the end of the Civil War and the abolition of slavery throughout the United States. The exhibition, open through Feb. 15, 2016, chronicles the African American experience through the perspective of stamps and mail. Continue reading
Posted Feb 27, 2015 at National Postal Museum
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Ben Eielson was an aviation pioneer. Known as the "Father of Alaska's Airmail Service," he was born in Hatton, North Dakota in 1897. Like many other young men, Eielson enlisted in the armed forces when the U.S. entered the First World War, ending up in Signal Corps' aviation section. After the end of the war, Eielson took to barnstorming, as did several other ex-military pilots. There wasn't much money to be made in that line of work, and after a few years he decided to accept a teaching position in Alaska. Continue reading
Posted Feb 20, 2015 at National Postal Museum
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When was the last time you wrote down anything? Do you always leave notes to yourself and others by texting? Then it’s time to put down the phone and pick up a pen. January 23 is National Handwriting Day. Continue reading
Posted Jan 23, 2015 at National Postal Museum
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November 22, 1935, a plane took off from San Francisco heading to Hawaii. A regular event today, but in 1935 aviation was still in its early years and the plane that took off that day quickly captured national and international attention. The China Clipper was the first commercial aircraft to establish a regularly travel route from across the Pacific. The “China” Clipper was somewhat of a misnomer. The route extended from San Francisco through Hawaii, Midway, Wake and Guam before ending in the Philippines, not China. This route was selected because it was an “all-American” flag route. The China Clipper was the first of a series of flying boats owned by Pan American airways that crisscrossed the Pacific beginning in 1935. The boats were named for the clipper sailing ships of the mid-19th century, the speedy trading ships. Continue reading
Posted Nov 21, 2014 at National Postal Museum
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Post offices are the heart of numerous small towns and rural communities. Whether located in tall, distinguished buildings in the middle of town or nestled away in a small, rural country stores, post offices continue to bind citizens to each other and to their government. For many rural Americans, sending a letter or picking up the day’s mail remains a cherished opportunity to chat and catch up on local news, or just take a break. Small post offices can also cost more money to run than they bring in, putting them on the front line for cuts when savings need to be made. Continue reading
Posted Nov 19, 2014 at National Postal Museum
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Potts Mailbox - woman mailingIn 1858 Albert Potts patented the first mailbox that the Post Office Department ever used. These new boxes, technically known now as collection boxes were then referred to as letter boxes, were placed on city sidewalks, giving people a chance to mail a letter without having to go to their local post office. Continue reading
Posted Nov 3, 2014 at National Postal Museum
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In October 1918, Second Assistant Postmaster General Otto Praeger, in charge of the nation’s airmail service, produced and distributed this small booklet promoting the success of the Post Office Department’s airmail (or aerial mail, as it was then known) service. The booklet touted the dependability of the nation’s airmail service at a time when aviation was still young and accidents, often fatal, were common. Continue reading
Posted Oct 16, 2014 at National Postal Museum
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I have just completed a six week paper conservation internship at the Smithsonian National Postal Museum (NPM). The purpose of the internship was to gain professional experience in the practice of conservation in an industry setting, and to manifest a network of professional contacts in the field of my related specialism. To gain entry into the conservation profession with a MA level qualification, vocational training courses, and multiple internships and fellowships are required. As such I was thrilled that being given the opportunity to work at NPM, as the experience at such an internationally renowned museum would provide an invaluable opportunity for professional development. Continue reading
Posted Oct 8, 2014 at National Postal Museum
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In December 1942 Lt. Col. Noel Parrish assumed command of the Tuskegee Army Airfield (TAAF) and during the next four years, TAAF produced some of the nation’s finest and celebrated servicemen, the Tuskegee Airmen. As the white commander of a predominantly African American military installation, Lt. Col. Parrish faced both local white citizens who were not supportive of the facility or its mission, and some white senior military and political leaders who believed that African Americans were intellectually incapable of flying combat aircraft. Continue reading
Posted Sep 29, 2014 at National Postal Museum
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Sometimes a disaster catches us off guard, arriving in ground-shaking form like the 5.8 magnitude earthquake that shook the east coast in 2011. Other times, it comes in the cloak of the night as a quietly leaking pipe in the basement. And every so often it seems to arrive all once like the flood waters of the 1966 Flood of the Arno River in Florence, Italy, which some say was the catalyst for the review and improvement of disaster preparedness as well as art conservation and historic preservation. Continue reading
Posted Sep 18, 2014 at National Postal Museum
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Sometimes wanting to display an artifact for the public to experience and wanting to preserve it for posterity is a hard balance to find. Light is a source of damage to artifacts and the effects are irreversible. In the Postal Museum’s new exhibit, Behind the Badge, which opened June 2014, the staff decided to display two extremely light sensitive artifacts: a letter and envelope from the 2001 anthrax attacks and a detonator from a 1920s train robbery. Normally, both objects, if put on display in regular exhibit cases, would only be allowed on display for a few months; otherwise light damage would eventually cause irreversible fading. The objects would then have to be stored in dark cabinets for safe keeping by the Collections staff; the only way the public could see them would be through pictures, which is never the same as seeing the real thing. The museum wanted the public to enjoy viewing the artifacts for as long as possible, so the Preservation staff began researching solutions to help mitigate the light damage problem. They found VariGuard SmartGlass™. Continue reading
Posted Sep 11, 2014 at National Postal Museum
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By Nancy Pope, Historian and Curator September 2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the opening of the Washington, DC city post office building. While the building still has an operating post office, the bulk of the space was turned over to other agencies after an extensive renovation of the building at the end of the 20th century. Among the new tenants to the building was the National Postal Museum, which opened in 1993. The building is located on Massachusetts avenue next to Union Station, which had itself just opened seven years earlier. At the turn of the 20th century, Washington’s... Continue reading
Posted Sep 4, 2014 at National Postal Museum
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On August 28, 1864, while the nation was still in the midst of the Civil War, the Post Office Department established the Railway Mail Service. The new service revolutionized the way mail was processed by sorting mail aboard moving trains, not just in post offices. Trains had been carrying mail for almost 30 years by that time. Under that system, mail bags were loaded onto the trains to be carried to another post office for processing. Some were delivered, but many others were put back into bags for another train trip. Some postal officials began wondering if they could improve that process by putting clerks on the trains to sort mail along the way, dramatically reducing the time it took to receive a letter. Continue reading
Posted Aug 28, 2014 at National Postal Museum
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When you visit a museum, you stroll through the halls and rooms inspecting objects. After you have seen all there is to be seen, you leave. But what if the museum left the halls and rooms behind? What if the museum came to you? Continue reading
Posted Aug 18, 2014 at National Postal Museum