Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Smithsonian Museums - National Postal Museum

Entering a dream world of mail.

National Postal Museum

I have a weird fascination with the Postal Museum. When I first read about it in a DC guidebook, like a lot of people, I thought it sounded like the most boring museum in the world, nothing but stamps and old pieces of mail. But then something inside me turned, and I suddenly had a strong desired to get inside this lesser known Smithsonian.

I was relieved to find that stamps are actually only a tiny, tiny fraction of the postal museum. The museum covers the history of the US mail system beginning with colonial post. You can actually learn a lot of interesting bits of American history. For example, there is a great exhibit about the relationship between the mail service and the newspaper industry. It explains why newspapers are often named "post" or "courier" or "dispatch."

It's a thoroughly modern museum with tons of interactive and hands on elements for children. Plus, the great hall has a transportation display with cars, trucks, semi-trucks, horses, airplanes, and a train car. Who doesn't love that stuff?

  • The Postal Museum is located in the old post office across the street from Union Station. This means its (1) a few blocks from the mall and the other museums but (2) easy to get to. As a result, you can visit an interesting museum without huge crowds.
  • Postal is much smaller than the other museums, but this size makes it easy to navigate and the single subject content makes it easier to focus.
  • I was actually emotionally affected by one exhibit. I didn't see that coming. (There's a really great exhibit about V-Mail between soldiers and families during WWII. Tear jerker really.)
  • The RFD in Mayberry RFD stands for Rural Free Delivery. Details inside.
  • The postal service has their own intelligence and law enforcement group, and the postal service was the first government agency to purchase airplanes (from the Wright brothers).

The handcuffs used to arrest the unabomber. He was busted by the mail police. I bet you didn't know that did you?

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