Did you know there is a U.S. National Postal Museum? I didn’t. I’ve learned that the National Postal Museum is part of the Smithsonian and it is full of interesting things. Fortunately for those of us who don’t live near Washington, D.C. , it can be explored online.
One area organizes resources thematically. For example (since March is, after all, a time to celebrate women in history), you might choose to learn about Women in Postal Service and Philately. There you’ll find stamps celebrating women’s history, women in the performing arts, and women’s experiences in the postal service. There are also topic reference pages on the ways many different peoples and events have been represented on stamps, as well as exhibits on aspects of postal service. There’s even a section on the Railway Service’s unofficial mascot dog, Owny! Depending on the topic, you might find information about stamps, essays on history, or even video lectures.
Another way to explore the Postal Museum is to focus on virtual exhibits. These are exhibits put together to virtually share materials from the museum, along with materials from some private collections. One of my favorite areas is in the Arago Virtual Exhibits Area. There are many fascinating exhibits, but I especially like “Alphabetilately,” an alphabetical collection of stamps and information about sending the mail. I think I especially enjoy it because it looks like something students could create—either about stamps, or about any other topic, using this as a model. In fact, some of the exhibits in the Arago area are created by students. Just click on the “Teachers and Students” link to see them. They are inspiring!
Of course, like other areas of the Smithsonian, The National Postal Museum provides curriculum resources for teachers.
Take a look and see what you find. This museum can help your students learn more about history and give them new ideas about how they can illustrate what they know. I’d love to hear what you do with these materials—and see some newly designed stamps!