Monday, February 27, 2017

National Postal Museum, Washington D.C.

The National Postal Museum is one of the many Smithsonian Museums in the nation's capital. It is very near the Capitol Building and built in the same classical architectural style as many of the District of Columbia's buildings.

National Postal Museum

The interior is also quite impressive. Most of the exhibits are downstairs from the main hall.

Main Hall

Downstairs (or escalators, as the case may be)

One of the first statues visitors see is of Owney the Dog, a lovable little pooch who is known as the mascot of the railway mail service. He wandered onto a railway car and road all over the United States back in the 1890s. Owney was considered good luck since he was never in a train wreck. He had lots of tags put on him from various post offices throughout the country.

Owney the Mail Dog

A replica rail car lets visitors try out their skills at sorting mail.

Where does it go?

Sorting it out

More of the rail car

Other modes of transporting mail are on display, representing the pre-Owney and post-Owney eras.

Early 1800s transport

Wait, I do want to be in the picture

The display stagecoach

The interactive stage coach

Not a happy passenger

The modern truck

In the cab of a modern trailer

I need a deep focus lens

In the Behind the Badge exhibit, the kids had the chance to practice their investigative skills to detect various forms of mail fraud and crime.

The "badges" part of the exhibit

Looking for evidence at the crime scene

Checking the mail for fraud and threatening letters

They also learned the often colorful history of the postal investigators. The agency was the first to use Tommy guns. Some of the crimes they investigated were rather ingenious. For example, one scheme had a man airmailing himself across the country in a trunk. On the plane, he'd get out of the trunk and rifle through the other mail, stealing valuables. He'd get back in the trunk and get delivered to his friends!

Tommy gun!

Jack in the box airmail scheme

Modern-day investigations

A small display showed the various movies about the postal investigation service, including one with Alan Ladd as an investigator helped out by nun!

Add this to the Netflix queue!

Another exhibit shows the development of the postal system from the early days through the addition of technology and ZIP codes to make the system faster and more accurate. We loved the interactive parts of the exhibit, especially the basketball-style pack sorting!

Diorama of developments (new trucks and uniforms, now in color!)

I'm sure the Post Office doesn't shoot baskets with our Amazon purchases

Trying a bar code scanner

The museum has various mailboxes from U.S. history and from foreign countries as well. We delighted in seeing old favorites from our European travels.

Domestic mailboxes

Foreign mail boxes

The upstairs exhibit includes information on stamp collecting as well as stamp design, including a "design your own stamp" station.

My daughter starts her collection

The museum is much more fun for kids than the name would imply and is definitely worth the visit. As a Smithsonian Museum, it's free which is nice when you have a family of five.

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