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Smithsonian National Postal Museum


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The Collection




Preservation Projects





The Preservation Office focuses on the rehousing, preservation, conservation and exhibit preparation of the Museum collection and loan objects. Below you can read about recent work that staff has performed. Return periodically to learn about new projects.






   • The Mailmanís Special
   • Crating Machines: Collections Care Fund at Work
   • Midnight Cleaning Preserves Precious Objects
   • Object-filled Crates Present a Challenging Project to Museum Staff
   • Conservation of the Benjamin Franklin Statue
   • New Home for the Cover Collection











 
The Mailman’s Special
         
Snowbird formerly on display
Snowbird formerly on display

Above: Snowbird formerly on display
  How many people does it take to move a Ford Model-T? The answer is: 11; four to actually do the work and 7 to stand around staring in amazement and anticipation. After almost 20 years of being on exhibit, the Ford Model-T, lovingly called the “Snowbird”, has been removed and sent to storage. The Snowbird, weighing 1800 pounds...   Palletizing the Model T
Palletizing the Model T
Above: Palletizing the Model T
   
       
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Crating Machines: Collections Care Fund at Work
         
Engraver's booth waiting to be crated
Engraver's booth waiting to be crated
Above: Engraver's booth waiting to be crated


The Collections Care Preservation Fund (CCPF) is a Smithsonian program created to fund critical collections care and preservation projects around the Institution.  Funds are distributed on a competitive basis each year.  In 2010, the museum received an award to fund the conservation treatment and custom crating of several postage stamp production machines in our collection.  They include a rotary intaglio web press, a coiling machine, a rotary perforating machine and an engravers table.  These machines were originally used at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP)...
       
arrow read more...

Contractors secure engraver's booth in new crate
Contractors secure engraver's booth in new crate
Above: Contractors secure engraver's booth in new crate
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Midnight Cleaning Preserves Precious Objects
         
Lift moving through Atrium
Lift moving through Atrium
Above: Lift moving through Atrium



Cleaning objects in the museumís collection is one of the simplest ways to decrease deterioration and elongate their life span. Even if the physical act of cleaning an artifact is simple, reaching the objects can often present a challenge. The artifacts that fall on this list are the three planes, carriage, mail train car, and beacon found in the museumís atrium. These objects are so large that it is impossible and or unsafe to clean them with a ladder. So, once a year the museum hires contractors and a JLF Lift to come in and clean the 6 objects. In order to not disrupt a visitorís experience, the cleaning begins right after the museum closes.
       
arrow read more...


Cleaning a plane in the museum's Atrium
Cleaning a plane in the museum's Atrium
Above: Cleaning a plane in the museum's Atrium

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Object-filled Crates Present a Challenging Project to Museum Staff
         
Old storage facility
Old storage facility
Above: Old storage facility


New storage facility provided by the United States Postal Service
New storage facility provided by the United States Postal Service
Above: New storage facility provided by the United States Postal Service



About 30 years ago, 27 wooden crates filled with postal operations and philatelic objects from the Smithsonian Institution’s National Philatelic Collection were shipped to a Smithsonian storage facility. The crates went untouched until 2007 because of a lack of space for processing and storage. It was not until the United States Postal Service provided the National Postal Museum with a facility that the process of opening the crates and inspecting their largely unknown contents began.

Unsure what would be found in the crates once opened, museum technician Rebecca Johnson began the project of processing the crates and their contents in August 2007. Lacking precedence for this type of project, Johnson created original forms and procedures and confronted challenges as they occurred.

Past inventories of the crates’ contents had been vague, incomplete, and lacking photo documentation. For example, the inventory might list “mailboxes” instead of “14 rural free delivery mailboxes.”

arrow Processing the Crates
arrow The Future of the Crates

For more information: NPMPreservation@si.edu


Rebecca Johnson rehousing objects
Rebecca Johnson rehousing objects
Above: Rebecca Johnson rehousing objects


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Conservation of the Benjamin Franklin Statue
         
Object conservator Cathy Valentour spot test cleaning the statue.
Object conservator Cathy Valentour spot test cleaning the statue.

Above: Object conservator Cathy Valentour spot test cleaning the statue.

Depicting a dignified Benjamin Franklin with his hands gripping onto the edges of his suit vest as his robe drapes behind him, William Zorach created this pink Tennessee marble statue in 1935 on commission by the Section of Painting and Sculpture under the Treasury Department. The inscription identifies Franklin as “Printer, Journalist, Diplomat, Statesman, Philosopher and Father of the Postal Service.”

In 1936, the statue was displayed inside the former Post Office Department (POD) headquarters at Federal Triangle in Washington, DC, where it stood for many years among 24 murals depicting the country’s postal heritage and many other examples of civic art.

Since 1993, when the museum first opened its doors to the public, the statue has been welcoming visitors in the museum’s foyer. It is on loan from the Fine Arts Program, Public Building Services, US General Service Administration.

arrow The Artist
arrow Conservation

William Zorach working on Franklin statue (c1935).
William Zorach working on Franklin statue (c1935).
Above: William Zorach working on Franklin statue (c1935).
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New Home for the Cover Collection
         
Before
Before

Above: Before

After
After

Above: After


Folded letters, envelopes, post cards, postal stationery (aerograms, postal cards, stamped envelopes and wrappers)—if it has been sent through the mails (with or without franking), it is part of the Museum's Cover Collection.

For more than 20 years, the cover collection has been housed in 15 large, metal cabinets with their drawers overflowing. In every conceivable size up to and beyond the standard 9 ½ inch long envelope, these objects have been almost inaccessible because of overcrowding and poor organization. Some have been damaged by the unavoidable rifling by closing drawers and thumb searches.

With the help of dedicated volunteers, the Museum is methodically rehousing more than 300,000 U. S. and foreign covers. As the objects are removed from old glassine paper housing, they are placed in labeled, acid-free folders and boxes and stored in new inert cabinets with roll-out drawers. When the project is completed, the entire cover collection will be physically stable and secure, to be enjoyed by researchers and visitors for years to come.


Box of rehoused covers
Box of rehoused covers

Above: Box of rehoused covers
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