So I went to the unveiling event for the 2014 Rudolph Holiday Stamp Collection and what I discovered was the amazing Smithsonian National Postal Museum. Why is it that we never take advantage or know about these wonderful places right under our noses?
I honestly never would have thunk to visit the Postal Museum had I not been invited to this event by a talented design firm I employ often whose principal sits on the Citizen’s Stamp Advisory Committee. And as luck should have it, not only were we the first ones able to purchase the new Rudolph stamps (aren’t they adorable?) but we also got an unexpected private tour of the museum’s William H. Gross wing by the museum director himself.
19 Million dollars and I can’t recall how many years to make this gallery come to life. And it is a real treat! Beautifully designed, it highlights stamps and the history of post in the United States and around the world, in ways that are interesting to both the avid collector and your average kid (I put myself in the latter)
- Did you know that Franklin Roosevelt, an avid stamp collector, used to design his own stamps, supplying hand drawn sketches to the postmaster general to create?
- Did you know that John Lennon was a stamp collector as a kid? The museum owns his collection complete with little mustaches drawn on the queen’s image and all.
- Did you know that Amelia Earhart funded her flights by carrying mail on board and signing the letters?
You could spend hours and hours in this museum — for real! Featured items on display include the very first stamp in the world. a letter dating back to the silk road, a letter posted to John Hancock on July 4, 1776, a letter posted on the moon and so much more. But the real gems are in hundreds of pull out displays showcasing more stamps, artwork and history than you could ever possibly get through. A reason to go back again and again.
One little tidbit that I loved learning from the director was about the beautiful window graphics that line the 18 windows across the front of the building — printed scrims of super large scale stamps that tell the history of America. Being a historic building nothing can be touched or changed without permission of government committees, in this case 3 different committees. Instead of simply asking permission which would assuredly garner 3 no’s, the director put a slew of stamps on the table and asked, “If you were going to pick the stamps to tell the American story, which stamps would you pick?” — and suddenly these government officials were engaged and boom, 3 yeses! Drive by at night and see the scrims lit up across the face of the building and you’ll marvel at their beauty.
Stamps are nothing if not beautiful. So celebrate their beauty and history with a visit to the Postal Museum on your next visit to Washington, DC.
images courtesy the USPS and The National Smithsonian Postal Museum