With the cold winter upon us, I haven’t stepped out to a museum in almost two months, but that’s okay, I have enough backlog to last for a bit, so let the warm summer memories begin… This past summer, my traveling companions and I visited Washington D.C., or as I like to phrase it, the city of free museums. Washington D.C. is the place to visit if you really like museums or are on a tight vacation budget. With over 10 free museums (collectively known as the Smithsonian Institution), there’s plenty to see. First stop on the Washington D.C. museum tour is…
National Postal Museum, located in Washington, D.C.
The National Postal Museum is located right by Union Station, the central hub of transportation in Washington DC. Admissions for the museum is free (who doesn’t love free), and was opened from 10am to 5pm during the summer time. The National Postal Museum is not located at the National Mall, where a majority of the other museums are, so lucky for us (and maybe not so lucky for the museum), there wasn’t a huge crowd or there would’ve been a lot of pushing involved.
The National Postal museum is one big spacious floor, located on the lower level of the building. It is a well organized museum, with individual galleries all uniting around the central theme of the postal service. The floor map that is provided has a suggested order to visit the museum, but being the tourists that we are, we just gravitated to the nearest thing in sight, hence, we ended up doubling back at one point. We started at the “Systems at Work” gallery, an interactive gallery demonstrating the process of mail sorting. In this area, you can cancel a stamp on a postcard (you may keep the postcard as a souvenir).
We then saw “Customers and Communities”, which demonstrated how mail has impacted city and rural routes; in this area, there is a really nice diorama showing the various effects that the postal system had on urban city streets. (These first two galleries, we went through backwards, as in we went in through the exit and come out at the entrance. The other galleries, we saw them the proper way.) Next, we traveled through a small forest path, which had lots of fun trivia, that mail carriers from the 1600s had used. I really enjoyed the forest path, even though it was super short, because for that small instance, it felt as if I was transported to a different place. In this gallery, we saw the exhibits on how the postal system united the nation, such as the use of stagecoaches and steamboats to transport mail to the country’s frontiers as the nation was expanding. There was even an exhibit on the famous Pony Express.
For more recent exhibits concerning the postal system, there was an interactive exhibit on postal crime where you can learn how to catch a mail criminal. There was also a smaller gallery dedicated to mail and the military. The rest of museum is devoted to stamps.
The museum has the largest collection of stamps I have ever seen, to say that its just a large collection would be an understatement, the collection is gigantic, enormous, immense. There was one exhibit that related stamps and the alphabet , another for USA and international stamps, and finally, an ever changing exhibits gallery; when we visited, the items on display were from the Hindenburg and Titanic, entitled “Fire and Ice: Hindenburg and Titanic”. Of the three stamp exhibits, I found the Hindenburg and Titanic exhibit to be the most interesting, as they were other things to marvel at, besides stamps. (I’m just not that into stamps.)
Last, but not least, (it should’ve been first according to the floor guide) was the atrium, where all different types of mail vehicles are on display. It was my favorite part of the museum, I like the mash up of the different types of vehicles from different eras together.
The National Postal Museum took us about an hour and a half to go through, but one can easily spend a longer time here; especially if you are enthusiastic about stamps, then you can spend forever at the museum, it has panels and panels of stamps. The National Postal Museum is a nice museum, well organized, not too crowded and has plenty to see. I enjoyed my visit, however when I think of the museum, all I can remember is that it has a lot of stamps. So if you really like stamps, or enjoy free museums, or would like to visit a Smithsonian museum without being pushed around, visit the National Postal Museum.