In the summer of 1993, the National Postal Museum opened in the historic City Post Office Building, located next to Union Station. The Museum was created with the cooperation of the United States Postal Service and houses over six million objects, making its collection one of the largest of its kind.
The systematized movement of written communication is thousands of years old. The message and the medium are intrinsically connected to our need for interpersonal communication and the national necessity to mark territorial boundaries. Mail provides citizens and their governments with mutual access. Postal monies have provided the capital that encouraged the development of transportation routes and road maintenance. Mail boosts morale in the military, maintains personal connections, and makes the goods of the world accessible to all. It promotes business, migration, and community and identity formation.
America’s postal history can be defined through the use of objects as small as stamps and as large as the nation’s first Highway Post Office bus. It is expressed in heartrending letters from soldiers on foreign battlefields and through the explosion of direct mail marketing. America’s postal history is the story of the people who make the service work and those who use it.
The National Postal Museum Library is one of the largest and most important research facilities for the study of philately and the history of postal operations in the world. The library contains extensive runs of major American philatelic journals and major subject-oriented journals published worldwide. The extensive collection of monographs on philately and postal history emphasizes materials in the English language and those of special importance.
Although the museum’s collections in postal operations focus on those in the United States, the philatelic collections are international in scope. In particular, Russia, Peru, Great Britain, Germany, France and the Universal Postal Union (UPU) are well represented. The museum and the library hold major archival holdings, including files from the United States Post Office, the Highway Post Office, the Aerial Mail Service, the Railway Mail Service, and the Panama Canal Zone Post Office. The major archival collections include the Post Office Department files of the Third Assistant Postmaster General, including original letters sent to various post office officials and replies discussing stamp issues and related postal subjects.
Bazylinski, Alison, Assistant Curator of Philately. B.A. (2011) Northeastern University; M.A. (2013) University of Nevada, Las Vegas; Ph.D. (2020) William & Mary. Research specialties: postal history, 20th century American cultural history; material culture; history of consumption; textiles and clothing. Contact: BazylinskiA@si.edu
Heidelbaugh, Lynn R., Curator. B.A. (1996) Bryn Mawr College; M.A. (2001) George Washington University. Research specialties: U.S. postal operations history; military mail; material culture of letter writing; business history. Contact: HeidelbaughL@si.edu
Piazza, Daniel, Chief Curator of Philately. B.A. (1998) Wagner College; M.A. (2004) Syracuse University. Research specialties: early American history to 1815; postage stamps and postal history. Contact: PiazzaD@si.edu
Devine, Scott W., Paper Conservator (books and paper). B.A. (1990) Duke University; M.L.I.S. (1996) The University of Texas at Austin. Research specialties: rare book conservation; philatelic conservation. Contact: DevineSW@si.edu
Affiliated Research Staff
Smith, Susan, Winton M. Blount Research Chair. B.A. (1992) Georgetown University; M.A.I.S. (1997) University of Washington; Ph.D. (2005) University of Washington. Research specialties: postal history; cultural heritage; museum studies; Russian and Soviet history. Contact: SmithSu@si.edu