Postcrossing Blog

News, updates, and all kinds of goodies and stories from the postal world!

Posts tagged "museum"

We have a super special treat for you today! The Little Mail Carriers have visited the Postal History Foundation in Arizona (USA), and are here to show the important work they do there, bringing stamps (and excitement!) to classrooms. Let’s go!

The Postal History Foundation (PHF for short) is located just west of the University of Arizona, in a residential neighborhood in central Tucson. It’s a non-profit organization with a dual mission of research and education: they provide stamps and lessons to students across the country and the world! We were excited to hear about this cool initiative… so we invited ourselves over for a visit. 😊

The Little Mail Carriers visit the Postal History Foundation

The building was a church many decades ago but now holds a workroom, a contract US Postal Service station, a museum area, the philatelic sales area, and the education department… as well as millions of postage stamps! We were going to deliver some mail to the postmaster, but were immediately distracted by the beautiful old post office in their museum section of the building, which is located just straight ahead across the lobby.

The Old Naco Post Office

This old post office is from the town of Naco, Arizona, which is on the southern border of Arizona and Mexico. It was originally ordered as a kit and set up in a building in Naco in the 1890s. All the wood, glass, and metal parts are the original ones! Normally, the Old Naco Post Office is very popular during tours and also with the students in their field trips, but sadly these are suspended because of the pandemic.

Inside the Old Naco Post Office Inside the Old Naco Post Office

We got to see their old hand cancelling machines, self-serve stamp dispensers and even an old letter sorting box (the wooden structure that looks like a grid) from the town of Casa Grande. Above in the mail sorting box are some scales for weighing mail. Below you can see a collection of hand stamps from around the state, such as “Special Delivery” or “Return to Sender.”

Special rubber stamps and cancellation marks

After looking at all of the cool machines in the Old Naco Post Office we decided to go to the current USPS contract station, which is in a little room off of the lobby. When going into the post office, we walked past more post office boxes from Naco that were preserved for viewing in the lobby. Here, you’ll also find a vintage pedestal USPS postal box — we put a donation in there to help with the kids educational program. We delivered our mail and looked at all the current US stamps for sale. The colorful stamps at our feet are the new Lunar New Year stamps. Did you know that 2021 is the year of the ox?

Post office and stamps at the PHF Stamp Discovery program

The kids program at the PHF is called Stamp Discovery. Every year it supports over 13,000 students and teachers across the United States and other countries with stamps, and lessons using stamps. Of course, this year has been a little different because of the pandemic, but it was still interesting to see the variety of lessons that teachers and parents can order for their students. In the education file room, they are stacked on top of the files, in shelves at the left and the right of us. These boxes contain lessons and stamp packets for students. If a teacher orders a lesson, for example, “Three Branches of US Government”, the teacher receives a worksheet that they can copy for their students, and stamp packets for each student to use with the lesson.

Lesson plans and stamp cabinets

Above you can see the filing cabinets that line the room and continue into another room. They contain US stamps filed by Scott number and also foreign stamps sorted by topics. If a child wants “dogs” to add to their stamp collection, they can write a letter or fill out the order form online, and the people who work and/or volunteer here will send her/him some dogs on stamps. The volunteers who work here are super heroes — they are what enables the education program to function and support so many children and teachers! During a normal year, students would visit the museum for field trips and the director of Stamp Discovery would visit classrooms in the city and suburbs of Tucson. Several of the libraries in Tucson have stamp treasure chests, which inspire kids that visit the library to learn about stamps and the topics on them by checking out books connected with stamp topics.

We walked into the big room off of the lobby and saw all the desks where the sorting and processing of donations happen. The PHF receives philatelic donations almost daily in the mail or by people who drop them off. Volunteers sort through and distribute stamps to the education department for the kids and some of the higher value stamps are put in the sales department for collectors to buy.

Owney the mail dog!

Proceeds from the sale of stamps in our philatelic sales department are used to pay for the running of the facility and the education program. Stamps, postcards, and collectible covers are sold there. People donate to PHF because it is a non-profit that inspires kids to learn with stamps and start a collection, thus growing the hobby of stamp collecting, called philately.

Also, we were allowed to go into a display case and visit Owney the famous Mail Dog in US history. There are special pictures, statues, and covers about Owney in the case. It is near the Old Naco Post office so that when the kids tour the old post office they can say hello to Owney, the stuffed dog, and learn about his history from the 1890s. Many books have been written about Owney and the education program has lessons about him. His books are also in the library, which is our next stop!

Sales department at the PHF

After talking to volunteers and looking at the processing room, we went out the side door to the patio. The PHF also includes a second building which is the Slusser Memorial Library. This is a modern building dedicated to Peggy Slusser, a lady who lived and worked in Tucson. This building contains a basement full of archives, a reading room, and the stacks of books. Behind the doors to the right are over 30,000 books and journals about philatelic history and the US Civil War. This library is used by researchers, collectors, authors, and of course, school children during field trips. On the walls of the library are paintings commissioned for the library about western adventures in postal history and an exhibit case. You can learn more about the library exhibits and paintings on the museum section of their website.

Slusser Memorial Library

Well, our visit has come to an end. We were amazed at all of the stamps, donations, and the children’s program. The Old Naco PO is a little unique gem of postal history and the library is first class. Exploring around the world is fun, and if you can’t physically travel, you can explore the world through stamp collecting. We’re glad the Postal History Foundation is around to help children everywhere do just that!

Goodbye, Postal History Foundation!

Our huge thank you to Lisa Dembowski, PHF’s Director of Education who graciously took the time to show the Little Mail Carriers around. That was a really cool trip, and we can’t wait to see where they’ll go next!

on

Tags: , ,

Smithsonian National Postal Museum Streetview

Have you ever been to a Postal Museum? If not, well, there’s never been a better time to start — if only from your own home!

We’ve been looking into Google Arts & Culture, and we’ve discovered that you can use it to visit places like the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum, in Washington DC, and then hop straight over to the UK’s Postal Museum in London, no air travel needed!

It’s not just that you can walk around these museums via Google’s Streetview, although that’s kind of cool as well. Depending on the museum, there are also “Stories” and collections, showcasing some of the museum’s exhibitions and holdings. For example, the Museum for Communication Frankfurt has an exhibition on the birth of express mail! Check out the sealed watch which the mail-carriers had to take with them, to prove they were delivering the mail on time:

Sealed watch
Pocket watch used on the mail coach service, with lockable case, Museumsstiftung Post und Telekommunikation

In a similar vein to our previous post about the lost letters of the Brienne archive, we found an online exhibition from the Postal Museum in London on 717 letters found aboard a sunken ship, the Gairsoppa! They’ve recovered 19 bundles of undelivered letters from the ship including old Christmas cards! Wonder if there were any postcards on board…

Gairsoppachristmas
Christmas card from the Gairsoppa, The Postal Museum

If you’re interested in stamps, there’s always the Smithsonian’s Women on Stamps exhibitions, or Amelia Earhart’s stamp collection… Or how about a collection of love letters from the Mexican Archivo General de la Nación?

And of course, they have all kinds of other museums — art museums, exhibitions on Mayan graffiti, natural history collections… I think I have to say the Gairsoppa story is my favourite, so far.

Have a look, and if you find other interesting virtual exhibitions that we should check out, let us know in the comments below! 😊

on

Tags: , ,

Earlier this year, we noticed a curious link on Terry’s (aka Terry5Little Mail Carriers jumping onto an envelope headed to Ohio to check out a very special place. Come discover the Postmark Collectors Club, and their wonderful museum!

The Little Mail Carriers at the National Postmark Museum

Hi everyone! We traveled to the center of the USA to visit the National Postmark Museum, the premiere collection of the Postmark Collectors Club. Yes! There is a whole club devoted to the collecting, studying and enjoying the trusted postmark! The Club has been around since 1946 and a few years later some of the Club members formed a group collection of postmarks. When the collection began to grow, they actually put it into an old School Bus!

The Little Mail Carriers at the National Postmark Museum

The club’s membership comes from all across the USA and many other countries. Each year they hold an annual convention somewhere around the USA, getting together to share postmarks, stories and good wishes. The Museum has continued to grow and preserve material important to the field of postmarks and postal history. The Museum has been in a few homes along the way typically moving to larger spaces to house the holdings. Then it moved to Bellevue, Ohio, USA, into the Historic Lyme Village, where it has been since 1978.

The Little Mail Carriers at the National Postmark Museum

One of the largest single holdings is the Willett-Thompson Collection, and today it is held in more than 300 blue binders.

The Little Mail Carriers at the National Postmark Museum

We checked out many of the special collections including postmarks from Military Camps and Bases. “First Day Cover” with postmarks that were only cancelled on the first day that a new stamp is issued by the Post Office.

The Little Mail Carriers at the National Postmark Museum

There are so many of these in this collection, covering many years. Some of the other special collections here in the Museum include postmarks with slogans, “Pray for Peace” cancels, and individual U.S. state collections. Being mail carriers, we moved over to our favorite part of the museum, a collection of Post Office photographs.

The Little Mail Carriers at the National Postmark Museum

The museum has drawers and drawers holding more than 55,000 pictures of Post Offices including new and old ones, from around the USA and around the World. They have thousands more pictures in their on-line internet collection.

The Little Mail Carriers at the National Postmark Museum

Another cool stop on our journey was the assortment of memorabilia and artifacts from Post Offices, hand stamps, canceling devices, sorting windows, mailboxes… and even some model mail trucks! All of these tools helped move the mail. There is certainly a passion here for collecting and showing mail and postcards, especially those with interesting postmarks. Each letter and postcard has a story to tell and the cancel helps telling that story!

The Little Mail Carriers at the National Postmark Museum

PS – Thank you very much Terry and Ron for these wonderful photos and report! They were a nice distraction from the nail-biting wait for postcard number 50 million to be registered…

on

Tags: , ,

As promised, here are the Little Mail Carriers to tell us all about their exciting visit to the Museum for Communication, in Berlin.

Hallo zusammen! We arrived at the museum in the early morning with lots of letters to deliver.

Museum for Communication building, in Berlin

After almost being run over by one of their cool robots, we started exploring the exhibitions. While we were marveling at the variety of mail boxes, we met Stefan, who was very happy to receive a letter from us. Did you spot him in the movie in our previous post?

The Little Mail Carriers meet Stefan

We also found a large collection of stamps in the exhibition and in the basement they have a “tableau” of some of the most well-known and rarest letters and stamps, including the über famous Mauritius blue!

The Mauritius Blue stamp

They are displayed alongside lots of other treasures from the history of communication, which is why they call it the “writing chamber”.

The Writing Chamber

We also learned a lot about postcards. In Germany, postcards, as we know them today, were officially approved in 1905, prior to that the address was written on one side and the text on the other (starting in 1870). Images were introduced early on before becoming one of the main features of postcards.

Our favorite part was a cool installation of a mail pneumatic tube! We embarked on a journey through the tubes to deliver a letter to Anne, which you can see in our video. The distance on the museum’s pneumatic tube installation is only 30 metres (about 100 feet), but the total length of the pneumatic tube system in Berlin in 1940 measured 400 kilometres (or 250 miles) — 1,333 times longer!

Researching in the library

Afterwards, we paid a visit to the museum’s library. It’s an important part of the museum, as it contains many sources on the history of communication, namely postal service and telecommunication. Researchers and museum staff use the resources for projects and new exhibitions. Here we met Florian, who was happy to help us write a short greeting into our travel journal and guided us behind the scenes to tell us about the large part of the collection that is not displayed in the exhibitions.

Mailboxes in storage

Together with the Museum for Communication Frankfurt, the Museum for Communication Nürnberg and the Archive for Philately Bonn, the Museum for Communication in Berlin forms a foundation with a large collection that is housed in two major storage spaces and the archive for philately. One of the storages is in Berlin, the other one in Frankfurt am Main. Thus, we went to the collections in Berlin-Tempelhof, where we found a great variety of objects and met more friendly museum staff members.

Pneumatic post Scales in storage

Among the objects were additional mail boxes, historic pneumatic tubes, post house signs and lots of photographs and postcards. We also made new friends with workers active in the miniature models of postal facilities such as a parcel sorting center and couldn’t resist the bus ride in a model of an old post bus! The original vehicles are located in Frankfurt am Main.

 Miniature post bus

The collection also stores a large number of letters sent by and to soldiers during different wars (e.g. WWI and WWII), letters that were exchanged between East and West Germany between 1949 and 1990 and letters between friends and lovers. We learned a lot about the postal system as well as the stories behind the letters — and you can too, as it is possible to research a lot of these letters online at www.briefsammlungen.de.

Goodbye Berlin!

Full of impressions, we delivered our last letters and hopped into the museum’s mailbox to continue our journey Tschüß Berlin!

A big thank you to Anne-Sophie Gutsche, Stefan Jahrling and Johannes Lindenlaub from the Museum for Communication for agreeing to host the little guys, writing and taking all these photos! 😊 On they go on their next adventure…

on

Tags: , ,

I believe most postcrossers have a soft spot for stamps. Who can help but be enthralled by their history and design, and the stories they tell in such a small format? There have been stamp collectors for as long as there have been stamps, but philately goes beyond simply keeping a collection. A big part of the field is actually the research of stamps and postal history.

One association whose members are dedicated to these goals is the Royal Philatelic Society London (or RPSL). We discovered it through Barrie (aka PeaceFox), who is both a postcrosser and one of RPSL’s assistant curators. When we first met him at a philatelic exhibition in Tampere last year, he talked so passionately about his work that we promised to check it out. Sometime after that, the Little Mail Carriers magically found themselves in the British capital with a bit of free time… so we sent them to the RPSL to explore and report back. Here’s their travel diary.

Hello from London 🇬🇧! There’s so much to see and do, and everything looks so posh here! But there’s no time for shopping or sightseeing today, as we’re on a mission: to visit and learn about the Royal Philatelic Society London, the oldest philatelic society in the world.

IMG 9445

The home of the RPSL is a lovely historical building in the heart of London, where we were received by their museum’s curator Juliet Turk. She explained that the Society was founded on April 10th, 1869 with a diary which they still keep…

IMG 9424

… but only truly became “The Royal” (as it is known among its members) 37 years later, when King Edward VII gave permission for the usage of the Royal prefix. Over time, several royal figures have been patrons of the RPSL, most notably King George V, who was an enthusiastic stamp collector and also served as president of the Society from 1896 to 1910.

IMG 9419

One interesting project that the Society is responsible for is the Museum of Philatelic History. Their permanent exhibition in the basement features displays on printing, using, collecting and exhibiting stamps, as well as post office tools and other interesting specimens… and even the printing press of Jean de Sperati, a famous master of philatelic forgeries!

IMG 9428

Visitors have access to temporary exhibitions and themed displays throughout the building, as well as historical artefacts related to philately — including this plaster cast effigy of Queen Elizabeth II by Arnold Machin. If she looks familiar, it’s because this is the image featured not only on the ubiquitous Machin stamps series, but its silhouette is also used in all the British stamps that don’t have a photo of the Queen herself.

IMG 9429

Juliet also gave us a peek into the museum’s archives, which include the Perkins Bacon records. This British company was responsible for printing many series of stamps, among which is the famous Penny Black. Their impeccable accounting and printing journals detail when each series of stamps were printed, and are thus a valuable resource for philatelists.

But… what about postcards?

IMG 9431

Oh, here they are! These date roughly between 1890 and 1920, and were sent to the RPSL’s Experts Committee, the department tasked with the job of certifying the authenticity of stamps.

Rosemary Green, a fellow of the RPSL, bequeathed a huge collection of archives, over 60 medals, 80 antique weighing scales and 50 Tunbridge Ware stamp boxes in 2012. Among the collection are these adorable kitten postcards, featuring scales.

IMG 9436

To keep their collections in good hands, many philatelists bequeath their stamps and prized postal possessions to the Society in their wills, and as a result, great treasures can be found in the RPSL’s own collection… and also some tiny ones, like this mini-postcard that Juliet showed us!

IMG 9438

How cute is that?!

There is also a library at the RPSL, where members come to research philatelic topics. Since every stamp is a mini-testimony to a certain era, there is a lot you can learn about the world through them. Over the years, we’ve seen many philatelic displays in exhibitions around the world, and it’s very likely that some of the research made for them came from the materials in this extensive library.

IMG 9420

At the end of our tour, we sat down with a cup of tea and marvelled at their colorful bookshelves stretching almost to the ceiling. You should definitely come visit, if you’re interested in stamps and philately! Independent Museum tours are free and guided tours start at £5, but booking is required.

IMG 9440

That was a brilliant visit — thank you Juliet and Barrie, for taking such good care of us! 😊

As we left the building, the sun was shining in London, so we went out to see the sights. Well tell you all about it in a different post… Stay tuned!

on

Tags: , , ,



Back to top