The National Postal Museum

The National Postal Museum

You don’t have to be a philatelist, more commonly known as a stamp collector, to appreciate today’s destination, but it helps. On today’s lunchtime bike ride I went to the National Postal Museum, located at 2 Massachusetts Avenue (MAP) in northeast D.C.’s NoMa neighborhood. The museum is across the street from Union Station, in the historic City Post Office Building that once served as the main Post Office of D.C. from 1914, when it was constructed, until 1986.

The National Postal Museum was established through a joint agreement between the United States Postal Service and the Smithsonian Institution, and opened in July of 1993. As you might expect, the museum houses on of the largest stamp collections in the world. Known as the National Philatelic Collection, it was originally established at the Smithsonian Institution in 1886 with the donation of a sheet of 10-cent Confederate postage stamps. Generous gifts from individuals and foreign governments, transfers from government agencies and occasional purchases have increased the collection to today’s total of more than 5.9 million items.

In addition its vast collection of stamps, the museum also houses many exhibits and interactive displays about the history of the U.S. Postal Service as well as mail service around the world, including postal history materials that pre-date stamps. Among other various items from the history of the postal system, it also has on display vehicles such as stagecoaches and airplanes which were used to transport the mail, as well as mailboxes and mailbags, postal uniforms and equipment, exhibits on the Pony Express, the use of railroads with the mail, and the preserved remains of a dog named Owney, the unofficial Postal Service mascot. The museum also houses a gift shop and a separate stamp shop where visitors can purchase stamps and other collectibles.

The National Postal Museum receives funding through three primary sources: the U.S. Postal Service, the Smithsonian Institution’s annual Federal appropriation, and gifts from private individuals, foundations, and corporations. So for visitors, admission is free.

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