Thursday, January 8, 2015

Washington Post

Choosing which museums to visit in Washington D.C. is a monumental task, but I had no hesitation about heading straight to the Smithsonian Postal Museum during my time off, on a recent work visit to the capital city. Certainly one of the museum jewels of the city, the museum is housed in the majestic old City Post Office building and hosts never-ending postal amusements to be entertained by, from collecting stamps to writing postcards.

After making my way past the gilt postal desks in the entrance way and then security, I walked underneath the sparkling ceiling of stamps straight into the little Pneumatic Tube Service exhibit. You can find a picture on the right, a little dark unfortunately because of the low lighting. The capsule exhibited is one of the highlights of the collection (follow the links to find some great video footage).  There is a little text on the systems built and used in Philadelphia, New York, Chicago, Boston and St Louis, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

While this part of the permanent collection is small, I did find some other pneumatic traces elsewhere, such as a telegramme, and a plethora of links online (start with the special section on Pneumatic Tube Mail).

I loved this postal museum, where you can make your own stamp collection from donated stamps and cancel postcards in different historical periods. There is a movie which shows how post moves through the U.S. postal system, which reveals some of the wonders of how letters arrive at their destinations - I experienced the same kind of fascination watching this film as I did as a child watching how crayons were made on Sesame Street. And at the end of the visit you can send your favourite postcards with carefully chosen stamps at the museums' own postoffice. Researchers who want to know more can arrange to visit the museum library on specific days of the month or by appointment - next time!

Image my own.

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