Contract Registrar Emily Smith, seated in front of the BEP cabinets, records information about each plate proof before it leaves for scanning and upon its return.Above: Contract Registrar Emily Smith, seated in front of the BEP cabinets, records information about each plate proof before it leaves for scanning and upon its return.
Armando Carigo and Deena Gorland of the National Geographic imaging team ready a plate proof for scanning.
Above: Armando Carigo and Deena Gorland of the National Geographic imaging team ready a plate proof for scanning.
This issue of the “Director’s Column” by Allen Kane originally appeared in the March, 2009 issue of American Philatelist.
Last February the National Postal Museum received a major Smithsonian Institution grant to digitize its certified plate proof collection. As readers know, each of these plate proofs is “a one of a kind” object that can be critical to scholarly research and study. Certified plate proofs are the last printed proof of the plate before printing the stamps. Each plate proof is unique, with the approval signatures and date. For postal scholars these plates provide important production information in the plate margin inscriptions, including guidelines, plate numbers, and initials of the siderographer, or person who created the plate from a transfer roll. I think of these proofs as “master copies” of the stamps that followed, since each proof was produced with new plates and fresh ink.
The museum’s certified plate proof collection dates from 1894-1970 and numbers over 30,000 sheets. Rarities in the collection include the 1918 Jenny air mail stamp plate proofs as well as press sheets signed by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Thanks to this grant, the museum will be able to make some of these treasures more accessible to the general public. Once 1,500 to 2,000 sheets from this collection have been carefully photographed the resulting high quality digital images will be made available at a later date to the public through the museum’s website, Arago.