Everyone had a stamp-collecting phase as a kid—and of course plenty of people keep up the hobby as adults, too. The National Postal Museum is for all of them, from the kids who soak letters to get their canceled stamps to the grown-up devotees who bid on whole sheets of misprints. In an age when the importance of physical mail is fading—and the very existence of the Postal Service is under threat—the Postal Museum gives an account of the mail’s vital role in American history.
You enter into “Moving the Mail,” an exhibition that traces all the ways the Postal Service has moved the mail over the years: from stagecoach to train to airplane and truck, with notable routes run on ponies, snowshoes, and dogsleds. “Binding the Nation” explains the early history of mail services in the Colonies through early 19th-century America, and “Mail Call” examines specifically the history of military mail.
After that, it’s time for the stamps. There’s a gallery devoted to Amelia Earhardt’s personal stamp collection; one entirely of stamps honoring Abraham Lincoln, from 1894 to 1959; and many more, including, of course, the main attraction for stamp lovers: the many extreme rarities and misprints.
Get to the museum at 11:00 a.m. or 1 p.m. to join one of the free, daily docent-led tours of the museum, lasting about half an hour. If you bring a child and he or she clamors to become a collector right away, you can pick up a starter kit in the museum gift shop.
In addition: do not get confused! Although the National Postal Museum is in a former main post office for the city of Washington, D.C., its building, the Postal Square Building, is not the Old Post Office Pavilion. The Old Post Office Pavilion, close to the National Mall , is the one with the food court. The National Postal Museum does share its building with a Capital City Brewery restaurant, but if you want lots of food options you’re probably better off going across the street to the food court in the lower level of Union Station.
For more, visit www.postalmuseum.si.edu.
National Postal Museum
Hours: The Museum is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., except December 25.
Parking: Street parking is available near the Museum and all-day paid parking is available at Union Station, located next to the Museum.
Metrorail: Red Line to Union Station. Leave through the Massachusetts Avenue exit. As you get off the escalator, the National Postal Museum will be across the street.
Old Town Trolley Tour