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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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By Ren Cooper Join us this Saturday for the National Postal Museum’s Family Day with Nickelodeon’s SpongeBob SquarePants! The museum will be decked out like Bikini Bottom—SpongeBob’s underwater home—and filled with fun activities for the whole family. ©2016 Viacom International Inc. Created by Stephen Hillenburg From 10 am – 5 pm you’ll get a chance to: Meet SpongeBob SquarePants Play nautical-themed games Build a sand castle with kinetic sand Contribute to a deep sea community mural Send SpongeBob postcards Pose for pictures in a Bikini Bottom photo booth And much more The festival will feature screenings of SpongeBob SquarePants episodes... Continue reading
Posted Jun 20, 2016 at National Postal Museum
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By Ren Cooper Last summer, the National Postal Museum was fortunate enough to host two fantastic interns – Aleida Fernandez and Ellyse Stauffer – who worked over the course of three months with curator and historian Nancy Pope. Each had their own research project, which resulted in interesting and informative articles currently featured on the National Postal Museum’s website. Anthony Comstock, 1844-1915 Aleida Fernandez delved into the rich history of the Anthony Comstock’s various crusades against “vice.” In her own words: “In the second half of the 19th century, New York City was a battleground between pious reformers and the... Continue reading
Posted Jun 13, 2016 at National Postal Museum
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©2016 Viacom International Inc. Created by Stephen Hillenburg. By Ren Cooper Here at the National Postal Museum, we are getting really excited about a very unique public program. On Saturday, June 25, 2016, you’re invited to the National Postal Museum’s Family Day with Nickelodeon’s SpongeBob SquarePants in celebration of the 2013 SpongeBob MailPants program and the induction of a special-edition SpongeBob mailbox into the museum’s collection. The event is from 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Admission is free! Image courtesy of Himmelrich PR. The museum will be decked out like Bikini Bottom—SpongeBob’s underwater home—and filled with fun activities for the... Continue reading
Posted Jun 1, 2016 at National Postal Museum
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Special Family Day to Correspond with Exhibition By Ren Cooper John Pack places mail into a box at Natural Bridges National Monument serviced by star route from Blanding, Utah, circa 1976. Photo courtesy of Smithsonian Institution Libraries, National Postal Museum Library. On June 9th, 2016, the National Postal Museum is proud to open “Trailblazing: 100 Years of Our National Parks.” This exhibition commemorates the centennial of America’s National Park Service, a federal agency created by Congress on August 25, 1916. Featuring objects from the museum’s philatelic collection, as well as original postage stamp art from the U.S. Postal Service and... Continue reading
Posted May 24, 2016 at National Postal Museum
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May 15-21, 2016 By Ren Cooper Sponsored by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), Dog Bite Prevention Week occurs each year during the third full week of May. The purpose is to promote safety and education when it comes to dog bites and dog bite prevention. AVMA estimates that over 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year, approximately half of whom are children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. [1] Dog attacks are also one of the main safety challenges faced by the United States Postal Service. At a press conference last week, USPS Safety... Continue reading
Posted May 18, 2016 at National Postal Museum
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By Ren Cooper Katie and her coconut. Each stamp was chosen with care. In 2015, Katie Burke, a museum specialist at the National Postal Museum, vacationed in Hawaii. During her time in Molokai, she made sure to mail herself a coconut. That’s right–a coconut. In theory, anything with proper postage and a legible address will be delivered by the United States Postal Service, with the exception of dangerous or illegal items. In fact, the history of mailing coconuts is rich and varied. Coconuts have primarily been sent as novel versions of postcards from tropical lands. However, there are several interesting... Continue reading
Posted May 11, 2016 at National Postal Museum
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By Kevin Whaley, National Postal Museum Intern Finding information about how to preserve your collection can be challenging, but the National Postal Museum has made that easier. Over the last several months, the Preservation staff has worked to redesign and update its website to make it more accessible and relevant for our visitors. The website is simply: www.postalmuseum.si.edu/preservation. Rehousing artifacts in a pH-neutral archival box Often, one of the hardest and most important parts of preserving a collection is choosing the right materials for storing and displaying your collection. Articles and resources are available on the Preservation website to help... Continue reading
Posted May 2, 2016 at National Postal Museum
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Thursday, April 28, 2016 | 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.| Lower Level Atrium, National Postal Museum | Free By Ren Cooper Join the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum as we celebrate National Preservation Week! Founded in 2010 by the American Libraries Association, National Preservation Week (April 24-April 30) is dedicated to the preservation of our personal and shared collections, which aid us in our understanding of history, culture, and each other. With over 6 million objects, the National Postal Museum has among the largest collections within the Smithsonian Institution. Our trusty preservation team has preserved a wide range of artifacts –... Continue reading
Posted Apr 26, 2016 at National Postal Museum
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How many times a day does your letter carrier stop by with your mail? Well once, of course. It might surprise you to learn that before 1950 carriers in some cities made several trips to homes and businesses each day. For decades the prevailing rule for mail deliveries was set in Section 92 of the 1873 Postal Laws and Regulations book. It stated that carriers would make deliveries “as frequently as the public convenience may require.” The phrase was left open to interpretation by postmasters. Just what did “the public convenience” require in their cities? Continue reading
Posted Apr 16, 2016 at National Postal Museum
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These days, letter writing is a lost art. But I’m asking you to consider picking up a pen and paper and taking a few minutes to write a letter to someone. Why? Well for one it’s a way to spend some calm and thoughtful time doing something different and productive. Also because April is National Letter Writing month. A letter is a gift. When you have taken the time to write a letter – not grabbing your phone to jot a quick text, but actually write a letter – you are demonstrating to a recipient that he or she is important to you. So dig out those pens and paper and get to writing! Continue reading
Posted Apr 12, 2016 at National Postal Museum
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Harry Conley Sherlock was a former Royal Air Corps pilot who had been attached to a day bombing squadron during World War I. He joined the U.S. Airmail Service on February 12, 1920. Sherlock was single, and lived with his mother in East Orange, NJ. His first assignment was to College Park, MD, which served as the Washington, D.C. airmail field. After a crash there, he came face to face with the strict, unforgiving rules of Second Assistant Postmaster General Otto Praeger's management. Sherlock was penalized 10 flying hours for "poor judgment while making a landing on March 10 at College Park.” Sherlock had overshot his landing field and hit a mud hole, breaking the propeller, lower right wing and landing gear fitting. The reprimand continued by noting that “It is believed that this will be sufficient as he shows promise of being a very good pilot.” So, in spite of that rough start, Sherlock was assigned to the more important Bellefonte, PA - Newark, NJ leg of the service. Continue reading
Posted Mar 29, 2016 at National Postal Museum
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After an historic and triumphant beginning in 1918, the U.S. airmail service settled into a series of experimental growth spurts. The original Washington-Philadelphia-New York City route was followed by a route connecting the nation’s two large financial centers, New York City and Chicago, and finally followed by connecting Chicago and San Francisco. Part of the Chicago-San Francisco airmail route even followed the old Pony Express route. Continue reading
Posted Feb 22, 2016 at National Postal Museum
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Sunday was Ben Franklin’s 310th birthday. He was born on January 17, 1706 in Boston. While others may celebrate the man for flying a kite in a thunderstorm or advocating the turkey as a national symbol (1), the Postal Museum celebrates his many contributions to postal history while he served as postmaster general under both the British crown and the Continental Congress of the fledgling United States. Continue reading
Posted Jan 19, 2016 at National Postal Museum
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As part of the George Washington University’s Museum Studies Program, each student spends two semester interning at different museums getting hands on experience in a museum. This last semester (Fall 2015) I spent my internship in the Preservation Department of the National Postal Museum. During this experience I learned invaluable skills relating to collections management, preservation, and overall museum conduct. Continue reading
Posted Jan 5, 2016 at National Postal Museum
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As a graduate student pursuing a career in the museum world, I was searching for hands-on experience working directly with museum collections. Fortunately, I was offered a collections management internship with the Preservation department of the National Postal Museum (NPM) for the fall 2015 semester. The skills NPM staff have helped me develop over the past four months are invaluable, and my experience at the museum has been nothing short of incredible. Continue reading
Posted Dec 22, 2015 at National Postal Museum
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This year, the US Postal Service predicted December 14 would be the busiest mailing day of 2015. And no doubt consumers and businesses across the country are hard at work trying to make that come true. December has long been a busy month for the Postal Service, but the 21st century has brought some interesting changes when it comes to mail. Where once the mail was filled with cards and some packages, the tables are turning. While letter volume (including Christmas cards) has gone done, package volume is soaring. And you’re a part of that trend if you’ve ever bought something online and had it delivered. Continue reading
Posted Dec 14, 2015 at National Postal Museum
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The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade® is one of the most iconic annual parades in American cultural lore. This New York City parade -- complete with a myriad of giant balloons, dancers, floats, cheerleaders, marching bands, clowns and celebrity performers and, of course, Santa Claus, ushers in America’s holiday spending season. The first Macy’s parade took place on Christmas Day in 1924 and served as a means to attract customers to the Macy’s store in New York City. For this inaugural parade Macy’s employees (of whom many were immigrants) dressed as clowns, cowboys and assorted fun characters, and the parade included animals borrowed from the Central Park Zoo. Approximately 250,000 people attended this parade. In 1927, Macy’s parade organizers began using giant balloons, starting with the introduction of Felix the Cat, instead of live animals. Now the 89th Annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade® will attract 3.5 million spectators and will entertain more than 50 million television viewers. The three-hour Thanksgiving Day TV show has received at least twelve Emmy Awards for Outstanding Achievement since 1979. Continue reading
Posted Nov 23, 2015 at National Postal Museum
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The Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum is unveiling an exhibition of original artwork Dec. 10 titled, “New York City: A Portrait Through Stamp Art.” On display through Mar. 13, 2017, 30 pieces of original artwork will be publically displayed for the first time, celebrating the influence of New York City on American society. Continue reading
Posted Nov 18, 2015 at National Postal Museum
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The Sidney N. Shure Collection is approximately 100 albums of stamps and postal history material from Israel and Palestine. It is an extensive collection of which we will be imaging 1,000 pages this week. I have already written about what a Rapid Capture project is, and how we were able to catalogue this important collection this past summer. This blog post is about the 3,600 barcodes we chose to associate with these objects. Continue reading
Posted Oct 2, 2015 at National Postal Museum
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Ames was a steady and reliable pilot who had his share of forced landings, including a particularly frightening one on September 26, 1922. While flight testing a de Havilland airplane out of Hazelhurst Field, New York, Ames reported that "the con rod in cylinder number four, right, broke, one piece going through the crank case and starting the motor on fire while in the air." Flying over Westbury, New York, at the time, Ames responded well to the crisis. "After cutting motor and turning on pressure pyrene tank [fire extinguisher], I landed the ship ok in plowed rolling field and tried to put out fire with my hand pyrene, which was impossible. When the flames reached center section and gravity tank I left ship which burned to the ground." Continue reading
Posted Oct 1, 2015 at National Postal Museum
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At the outset of this project, the Sidney N. Shure Collection was very nicely housed in high quality, archival three-ring binders, which we call albums. Each album represented a distinct subject area, and was preserved in the arrangement Mr. Shure had originally created. We knew approximately what objects we might find in any given album, but very little of that information was catalogued in our database. We would only have the opportunity to image 1,000 album pages during our Rapid Capture week, but I wanted to take this chance to digitize as much of the collection as possible. Continue reading
Posted Oct 1, 2015 at National Postal Museum
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In preparing for our Mass Digitization project, I have felt an increasing interest in our famed collector, Mr. Sidney N. Shure. I knew he had a massive stamp collection, and I knew of his association with the Shure microphone company. But who was Mr. Shure? I went to our accession files to find some answers. Continue reading
Posted Sep 30, 2015 at National Postal Museum
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The National Postal Museum has been working closely with the Smithsonian Digitization Program Office this past summer, preparing one of our international specialized collections, the Sidney N. Shure Collection, for a Rapid Capture digitization project. We have almost 100 albums in this collection of Palestinian, Israeli and Jordanian stamps and covers mounted on album pages. With each album averaging 50 pages needing to be numbered, catalogued and entered into our collection database, The Museum System (TMS), we had a lot of work! Continue reading
Posted Sep 29, 2015 at National Postal Museum
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We at the Smithsonian National Postal Museum work very hard to keep our exhibitions exciting and new, so our visitors can see as much of our impressive collection as possible. But we cannot put everything on display in our museum. We have some amazing collections in our storage areas that are just waiting to be seen! One of these is the Sidney N. Shure Collection of stamps and covers from Israel and Palestine. Continue reading
Posted Sep 28, 2015 at National Postal Museum
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The Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum announces a special showing of the world’s most famous and valuable stamp—the British Guiana One-Cent Magenta—at the World Stamp Show–NY 2016. The special showing will take place May 28–June 3, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City. Admission is free throughout all eight days of the show. Continue reading
Posted Sep 22, 2015 at National Postal Museum