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National Postal Museum Opens “Systems at Work” Exhibit
A letter is dropped into a mailbox. How does it go from there to its destination? The answer to that and other questions unfolds in “Systems at Work,” a new permanent exhibit opening today at the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum.
The exhibit recreates the paths of letters, magazines, parcels and other pieces of mail as they have traveled from sender to recipient over the past 200 years. In 1808, a stagecoach carries newspapers and the latest news to people hundreds of miles away. Two hundred years later, the integration of ZIP codes, barcodes, intelligent mail, automated sorting machines and advanced technologies enable the U.S. Postal Service to process and deliver mail to 150 million homes and businesses across the country.
At the exhibit’s core is a 270-degree high-resolution film experience that puts visitors into the middle of the mammoth world of a mail-processing center, surrounded by examples of automated machinery that moves mail through the system at astonishing speeds.
“The most commonly asked question by our visitors concerns how mail gets from somewhere else in the country to their home,” said Allen Kane, director of the museum. “This exhibit answers that question and shows the impressive technology that enables the Postal Service to deliver almost half of the world’s mail.”
“At a time when Americans are debating the very nature of their postal system, this exhibit reminds us of what it does, and why it has been a central part of American life,” said Nancy Pope, curator of the exhibit.
The exhibit is made possible by Motorola Solutions Foundation, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Siemens.
The National Postal Museum is devoted to presenting the colorful and engaging history of the nation’s mail service and showcasing one of the largest and most comprehensive collections of stamps and philatelic material in the world. It is located at 2 Massachusetts Avenue N.E., Washington, D.C., across from Union Station. The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (closed Dec. 25). For more information about the Smithsonian, call (202) 633-1000 or visit the museum website at www.postalmuseum.si.edu.