Saturday, August 27, 2016

July 26 -- Postal Museum


The Postal Museum is literally across the street from Union Station.  I rode the Metro's Red Line from Dupont Circle to Union Station.  There is a very large food court in Union Station.  I got an interesting vegetarian sandwich from a place with a French name.  (There was an Au Bon Pain, but I got my sandwich at the other one, whose name escapes me.)

After lunch I went across the street.

I'd never been to the Postal Museum before, but they have a lot of interesting things to see.  Volunteers are enhancing the experience by demonstrating the spider press made all of our stamps up to 1880, and by running some interactive activities for us to participate in.  Thank you, volunteers!

It took a pair of volunteers to run the spider press.  It was called "spider" because it looks a bit like a daddy long-legs (if you don't pay attention to the fact that it only has 5 legs).  This kind of press exerts a lot of pressure, pushing the paper onto the inked engraved plate.  It's easier with two people to turn the press (rolling the plate and paper between the cylinders), and it's important for one person to have clean hands, to handle the paper.  The other person can ink the engraved plate, and needn't have such fastidiously clean hands.

Here's some text from the link above:  "The spider press uses intaglio printing, which is printing using an engraved plate. While the mechanics of the press and printing like this are simple it takes a lot of skill to get everything exactly right. The teams working the press rarely made errors and printed around three hundred and fifty sheets of one hundred stamps every day."

They were printing this image of the building that is now the museum.  The ink is raised; our fingers can easily find it.

Walking on -- there was an exhibit whose path wandered through fake woods, to give us a sense of what it might have looked to a person trying to deliver the mail in 1673.  You walked through, looking for the marks left on trees by those who went before you.

According to Wikipedia, "PostSecret is an ongoing community mail art project, created by Frank Warren in 2005, in which people mail their secrets anonymously on a homemade postcard. Selected secrets are then posted on the PostSecret website, or used for PostSecret's books or museum exhibits."

I became aware of PostSecret at some point many years ago, and looked at it several times, but stopped when I decided that as much as I hoped it was helping people do something about the problems that were tormenting them, it wasn't making my life better to be aware of all the things bothering so many people.

How many, you ask?  Over half a million.  The Postal Museum's blog says this is 250,000 postcards.

There were lots of individual postcards available for museum-goers to read, and nearly all of them were just as distressing to read as I recalled.  Sigh...........

Here is something lighter and more fun.  This was a hands-on activity run by the same volunteers who'd been operating the spider press earlier.

They handed you a bunch of letters, and asked you to decide if the postal service could or could not deliver them.

There are a whole lot of rules about this, and I did not know most of them.

Of course the writing has to be legible, there has to be an address (if you want your letter to reach the President of the United States, you'd better give his address, even though they know it perfectly well!)

A sitting Senator can sign the corner of an envelope in lieu of paying postage, but a sitting President cannot.  Once s/he's no longer President, s/he can sign instead of paying.

Does it matter if the stamps are "in the wrong place"?  No.

It does matter if one stamp obscures the other -- the postage has to be unobscured to count.
And it does matter that the postage has to be US postage!

I was tickled to find this letter in the bunch.  John Astin is the name of the actor who played Gomez Addams on The Addams Family (on tv in the 1960s).  In more recent times, John Astin has taught drama and theatre at the university attended by my daughter.  When we and my parents were in Baltimore to attend her graduation, we met him.  He was a very lively and friendly guy that evening.  He had enjoyed having our kid in his class.

There was an exhibit of original art that was commissioned so stamps could be made.

Grand Central in NYC.  Dan Cosgrove

The Brooklyn Bridge, linking Manhattan with Brooklyn.  Howard Koslow

The Empire State Building.  So much detail.....!!!  Paul Calle

Rogers and Hammerstein, who wrote the songs for The Sound of Music (as well as many other musicals).  Drew Struzan

Gershwin, with Porgy and Bess.  Mark English   I own several copies of this stamp, having picked them from the bin of uncancelled US postage at the Ann Arbor Stamp show over the years.

The image above is pretty distorted.  When there's glass between me and my subject, I move to the side to try to avoid reflections off the glass in my image.  This results in rectangles being pulled out of shape, usually in both dimensions.  Every single thing I've shown you in this set of posts that resulted from a photo taken of a rectangular item hung on a wall has been extensively manipulated to try to get it back to rectangular shape.  With inevitable mistakes on my part.  Please take all of these images with a cup of salt.

Love what the artist has done with the overlaps -- Gershwin's head with the smaller figures, the fancy man's leg over Porgy.....

Crossword Puzzle.  Dennis Lyall

There were many more original works in this exhibit than these.  I enjoyed the exhibit.

Right next to the stamp art was a fairly extensive collection of items connected with the postal inspection service, including stuff associated with various bad guys, like the Unabomber, and the jerk who sent anthrax through the post office.  I had not realized that postal inspectors are the oldest government law-enforcement division (this is my memory of what the exhibit said).

They are very serious about keeping stuff that goes through the post office safe and legal  Thank you, postal inspectors!

There was a special exhibit on the 100 year anniversary of our national park system.  With more original art for stamps.  (As always there is distortion -- I've tried to get them rectangular, and to brighten them up so we can see them better.  I'm sure they are not all that great at emulating the originals.  Which is good, but you should be aware of it.)

Old Faithful at Yosemite, the first National Park on the planet.

John Muir, whose tireless work helped get Yosemite turned into a National Park.

There is lots to see and do at the Postal Museum.  Well worth a visit.

Back at the hotel.  One of the many pairs of elevators that took us up from the lobby to our floor of the hotel was glass backed.  Hooray!  This is a view from the front of the hotel, looking north.

We went across Connecticut to the Lebanese Taverna.  It was our favorite restaurant on this trip.

Collection of lanterns, and the shadows they cast.

This bread was hot and fresh and almost all air. Crisp on the outside and soft inside (inside 1/4 inch from outside) and completely hollow. A tasty beginning to the best meal we had in Washington.

Still enjoying the sky from the hotel room.


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