Technology in Transition: Technology at the National Postal Museum

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Review

of an Exhibit

by Megan Keller

Published on February 16, 2010 , Modified on May 23, 2017

  • Description:

    The National Postal Museum had been on my list of museums to visit since I first moved to DC in fall of 2008. The subject matter is not something I would be immediately drawn to, so I was interested to see how technology could make this subject more relevant for me. I visited the postal museum on Sunday, January 31st and again to take photos on February 14th. I was struck by how much the technology changes over the course of these two weeks. I choose to view the “Binding the Nation” exhibit and much of the exhibits in the main lobby of the museum. Although not much technology is available in “Binding the Nation” the museum is rapidly changing.

    The “Binding the Nation” exhibit features limited technology to exemplify the origins of the US postal service. The low light and nature sounds at the start of the exhibition put the visitor into an immersive experience. This was a good way to hook the visitor at the opening of the exhibition. Further on, the visitor has an option to “Create a Postal Route” at a kiosk. Although there were originally two kiosks available, it appears only one is working. Although the graphics are a bit on the older side, the game is still fun while educating the museum visitor on the difficulty of traversing America’s difficult terrain to deliver the mail. Further on, an audio track plays describing life on a stagecoach. This concludes the limited technology in the exhibit.

    The lobby features a number of technical devices to enhance the visitor’s experience. Two souvenir postcard machines were constantly in use. Yong and old alike were drawn to these machines. Out of three machines, two were in service and allowed the visitor to have the address of their choice be printed on a postcard of the National Postal Museum. The panels instructed visitors to use one of several out of service stamp machines which caused confusion for many visitors. The machines offered no educational content, but were a favorite with visitors as they received a free souvenir post card. When I returned to the museum the 2nd time, the machines were completely removed and replaced with stanchions to block the area. I would like to see the machines illuminate an element of delivering the mail perhaps personalizing this information with the zip code the visitor enters along with the address on the postcard. A didactic element would enrich a guest’s experience of the postal museum. Perhaps the machines are being reworked and may return to the museum.

    The lobby of the museum also features a Ford Education center with a touch screen computers. One large monitor overhead allows visitors to watch the screen if all the consoles are occupied. These consoles give the museum guests the option to learn more about many of the items in the museum and play games. I did not see many visitors using these machines, but I do like that there is the option to learn more about the objects on display. This is an excellent and affordable way to add technology to all the aspects of the museum without redoing an entire exhibit such as “Binding the Nation”.

    Two areas of the museum were titled “What’s in the mail for you?” and blocked off with a construction sign although all the technology was on and very alluring. These exhibits were filled with sound domes and sort of scanning card system I wanted to explore. On my second visit to National Postal Museum there was no doubt these areas were construction zones and a tarp covered the area.

    I am very impressed with how quickly the National Postal Museum is changing. Although I do not know what will be added to the lobby or the sections of the museum under construction I am impressed by the rapid change which I believe will include increasing technologies.

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