You probably know by now that the museums in Washington D.C. are “taking a break” (through no choice of their own). Needless to say, I got pretty darn lucky visiting the nation’s capital two weeks ago, before all the big stick-waving/filibustering occurred. Although the National Postal Museum is shuttered for the time being, I’ve got plenty of exciting stories to tell RLD readers about September 22nd’s festivities!
I’ve never really been to D.C. before and this trip convinced me that I should make an effort to spend more time visiting. There’s so much history gathered into that particular pocket of the country — the Folger Library, the Library of Congress, and the Ford Theatre to name just a few.
Have I mentioned the hospitality of D.C. folks? The evening I arrived, Melissa Esposito of Craftgasm hosted an informal mail art meet-and-make at her new store Analog. In attendance: Mary England of Uncustomary Art, Anne Elizabeth of the Letter Love blog, mail artist Post Muse, and @Mazzie. Over the course of a couple hours we swapped stories, tips of the pros, and laughed A LOT. It was amazing to hang out with the D.C. postal posse, folks that I’ve long admired, followed online, and finally got to meet in person.
Alas: I had to call it a night, as tomorrow was the BIG DAY. I headed back (into the torrential downpour) to my apartment and tucked myself into bed, dreaming of the postage and people I’d be meeting in the morning.
I’ve dreamed of visiting the National Postal Museum for years; it’s like the be-all, end-all museum for a girl like me. As I stood in front of the larger-than-life building (grand new postage-stamp stained glass windows, arching columns, postal creed emblazoned on the façade) I paused to relish the moment.
And then I walked inside.
A carnival-like atmosphere pervaded everything. Crowds (and I do mean CROWDS) of kids and adults gathered in the main hall, discussing the day’s activities. Instinctively I veered right, heading towards the escalator. I was stopped in my tracks by the vision laid out before me: the ground level atrium with airplanes overhead, a Grumman LLV postal truck, and rearing Pony Express horses on display. It was like a dream come true.
Into the fray I went.
Want to put together a stamp collection? No problem!
How about design your own stamp? That’s covered.
Now I’ll confess: I had an agenda. With 100 specially-prepared-for-the-day postcards, my heart was set on getting the special Inverted Jenny first day of issue cancellation for my mail art peeps. Waiting in line with my friend Barbara, the two of us double-checked addresses, made sure correct postage was in place, and willed the line to move faster. Finally! Our turn…
Business taken care of, it was time to venture over to the museum’s gift shop. And guess what I found?!
(all gift shop patrons were stymied as to why I was making such a rumpus…)
How did it get to be 4pm already? Almost time for my appointment at the Correspondence Salon for Ladies and Gents! As I was crossing the lobby, who should I run into but Mr. Zip? “You’re my boyfriend!” I cried, racing across to give the Zip a big hug. Inside the costume, I heard laughter.
Get upstairs, Jennie – don’t be late!
Barbara and I checked in, claimed our (beautifully embossed) raffle tickets, and settled into chairs at the Byrne Education loft. Tucking into our Correspondence Kits (designed by Antonio Alcala and Alyson Kuhn, with paper generously gifted by Neenah Paper) we scribbled, doodled, rubber stamped, and addressed to recipients near and far.
Our Mentor in Correspondence, Alyson Kuhn, checked in with folks individually and instructed us in the nuanced ways of addressing envelopes, positioning stamps and choosing the perfect pen for writing. Once our missives were completed, guess where we placed them (so that they could be cancelled with a different, special cancel for the day)?
I was literally kicked out/escorted from the building by security, since I had stayed right up until the very moment when they were locking the doors (I wasn’t the only one). The day had passed in a whirlwind – a deliriously happy one, at that. I walked back to the apartment with a head full of philatelic visions.
Of course I returned the following day, when things were far quieter. What did I see? An original Inverted Jenny stamp, crash mail from the Titanic and Hindenburg, a letter addressed to a home in “the burnt district” in San Francisco (after the 1906 earthquake). Wandering the galleries, I was reminded of the sheer amount of history embodied in America’s postal culture. From the early days of the Pony Express to the current renaissance of letter writing/mail art love, the USPS has seen it all (and then some). The National Postal Museum puts that history on display so that the public can continue to explore, enjoy and examine the things that make our postal service so beloved.
postscript: if you’d like to take a look at the full roster of photos I snapped at the event, head over to Flickr: