Any Fans of the Postal Museum?

IMG_1662, originally uploaded by Prince of Petworth.

I’ve always thought of this beautiful building next to Union Station as the one that houses Capitol City Brewing Company. Intangible Arts explained to me that it’s actually the National Postal Museum. Is it worth checking out?

35 Comment

  • It’s OK, and the price is right (free). Here’s my Flickr photoset on the museum in case anyone wants to check it out further:

  • I work around the corner and was doing something deadly boring at work and needed to escape. Well, I found that there is something even more boring then data entry, and that’s the Postal Museum.

  • The architecture inside is wonderful, they did a fantastic job of restoring the building. I think that the museum experience really depends on the docent you get, some are really engaging, others are… what you might expect from a postal museum. I’m a mail nerd, though, so I was really able to entertain myself. Had a great time.

  • Ha. I always think of it solely as my post office, which has painfully long lines to pick stuff up and is generally a place of miserable experiences.

    That said, I’ve been to the Brewing Company only a few times (and have been unimpressed), and I’ve never been to the museum.

    But seriously – can you please have more than 2 or 3 employees at the windows in the Post Office?!

  • I liked looking at the old stamp artwork and the history of mail delivery. I thought it was neat–and free ain’t bad either. Also, you can generate free postcards there with this funky machine. Good for a rainy Saturday when you can’t think of anything else to do, but definitely reward yourself with a beer afterwards

  • Ashy Oldlady

    I’ve always been a fan of the Postal Museum. Kind of small for a Washington museum, but nice nonetheless. Spend some time at the museum and then head upstairs to Cap City for some beers. Alright!

  • If you JUST need to buy stamps (not mailing anything) the stamp store there has an awesome selection and never any lines.

  • not as boring as the bead museum

  • Given that we live in a time of instant gratification, modern electronic communication and with a post office in severe decline,

    it’s cool to take pause and appreciate the words inscribed outside the Massachusetts Avenue National Postal Museum on the white granite pictured above to the left of the flag and above the banners.

    The building was dedicated by Woodrow Wilson in a time when the post office was a much larger part of our lives. People actually took time to sit down, put pen to paper, and wrote letters to each other and waited days and weeks in anticipation for a reply.

    It’s a poem by Boston Massachusetts math professor and 40 year Harvard President Charles Eliot on the postal service mission:

    Messenger of Sympathy and Love
    Servant of Parted Friends
    Consoler of the Lonely
    Bond of the Scattered Family
    Enlarger of the Common Life
    Carrier of News and Knowledge
    Instrument of Trade and Industry
    Promoter of Mutual Acquaintance
    Of Peace and of Goodwill Among Men and Nations


  • could they at least install free wifi and tables so people would have a QUIET place to write/read? there doesn’t seem to be enough museum stuff that’s truly interesting to anyone other than stamp collectors. it seems like such a waste of wonderful space. i know the libraries have this, but union station is right where it’s happening. imagine: you get off the train from NYC, dash to the postal museum, give a last-minute check to your presentation, then run to McCain’s office to show him how public transportation will save the planet…..

  • It’s very cool for people who like to learn something they didn’t know before. I had several “huh… I never thought about that before” moments there. I would go back, though perhaps not as often as I’d go back to the botanical garden.

  • I have always thought of it as “my post office” too. And I always thought it was funny the employees have obviously been instructed to call the next person to the window by saying “can i help you?” but they end up shouting it at people to move the enormous line along. “CAN I HELP YOU!”

    and the stamp selection is awesome.

  • It is my friend Adam’s favorite DC museum. He’s kind of an odd bird, though.

  • If you want a beer and a passable sandwich the Brewing Co. isn’t the worst sit-down restaurant choice near there. The museum reminds me a lot of the Building Museum – a big “meh”. If you have to kill some time, sure, but as a destination? Nope.

  • the under-rated and hidden gem of the Smithsonian. The space is really beautiful and the collection is unique. I take all my out of town guests here and they love it. Believe me it is so much more than stamps!

  • The Postal Museum has EXCELLENT educational programs, especially if you want a free, fun activity to do with kids. It is a great place to visit, a hidden gem, and you should go at least once in your life. Maybe the people above who don’t like it are just a bit jaded with DC. No, it’s not Air & Space or American History, but it can certainly hold its own!

  • Meg:

    I wouldn’t say I disliked the Postal Museum as much as I just wouldn’t put it on the list of must-see places. The building itself, like the Building Museum, is very impressive. If someone is going to be at Union Station and has the time to see it they definitely should. I just wouldn’t go out of my way.

    Frankly, I also wouldn’t put the newly renovated American History Museum on the list of must-visit places unless the visitors in question had children. I much preferred it before they rehabbed it and cut the collection down to bare bones so they could install whiz-bang gadgetry and what they must assume are kid-friendly exhibits. Going to what used to be my favorite museum (even as a kid) and seeing what they had done to it was one of the major disappointments of last year.

  • I really liked the Postal Museum. The exhibits were interesting, and overall a good history lesson. Plus, as someone mentioned earlier, the architecture of the building itself is really nice.

  • I’ve been wanting to check it out – but I can never convince anyone to go with me!

  • Nichole – if you go late at night, there’s hardly any wait. (Except at Christmas) I’m just sad they scaled back to closing at 9pm instead of midnight. The staff there is much friendlier than at other locations.

  • I would put the Postal Museum ABOVE most of the mall museums. God, those places are a hot screaming claustrophobic nightmare. And the American History is the worst of them. It was my favorite when I was a kid, and now it’s just an embarassment. I remind myself of what a total sell-out the former administrator was, but it doesn’t make me feel any better.

  • I can actually see the inside of the museum from my cubicle (the museum is in the basement of my office building, which looks into it) and I haven’t actually been to the museum in 4 years… They’ve done some nice renovations to it, from what I’ve seen… being a few floors above.

  • they should add some excitement with an exhibit on postal-related violence.

  • WDC: Going to the American History Museum after it was re-done was like finding out that Santa didn’t exist and your parents were divorcing on the same day. I almost wanted to sob on the steps it was such a travesty.

  • Any museum with a taxidermy dog in it is a museum worth going to.

  • I would put the Postal Museum ABOVE most of the mall museums. God, those places are a hot screaming claustrophobic nightmare.

    Oh, come on now! The bathrooms in the Air & Space aren’t that bad! Granted, they’re a little small and poorly ventilated, but you can hardly blame the museum if it’s full of tween tourists with diarrhea.

  • I am reminded of my favorite American History Museum anecdote.

    A friend was in town visiting from France on his first trip to the States. This was a few years ago, before the remodel. I had to work and so sent him off to explore on his own. When I met up with him later that evening, I asked him what he did and he told me he’d been to the American History Museum. When I asked him what he thought of it, he paused and then said, “I do not understand this place. It is a museum of… nonsense.”

    I really had no answer that would make sense for him.

  • The beautiful building is actually the Postal Square Building which, in addition to housing Cap City, the Postal Museum, and a Post Office, is home to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. I see there is at least one other BLS lurker here, I’m looking at you — [email protected]:15 🙂

  • Nichole:

    To me the nonsense was the best part! They just had all kinds of stuff (and occasional treasures) all wedged together up to the rafters. Now they’ve tried to isolate about 2% of these materials in some sort of new-fangled-self-satisfied-architecture-student-nightmare. Before the AmHisMu was like a really good garage sale. There were piles and piles and piles of crap, but you’d be constantly surprised and perplexed at what you’d find. Archie Bunker’s chair next to a draft copy of the Bill of Rights! A scale model of the U.S.S. Constitution in the same cabinet as Eleanor Roosevelt’s false teeth! No explanation needed, lookit! It’s Neil Armstrong’s wind breaker next to the Nixon tape missing 18 ½ minutes!

    Now it’s like they took the absolute most boring and predicable parts (cars, Lincoln’s silly hat, the first lady’s wardrobes) and transported them from their crowded natural flea-market-like habitat to the display counters out of Tiffany’s with touch-screen bullshitery thrown in.

    The “Star Spangled Banner” enclosure is the worst. You stand in an amusement park-like line until you are shooed into a dark closet with the flag lain out in space-aged precision while about 45 HD teevee’s flash with about 10,000 unimportant pieces of craptastic non-information. If the 12 year old drooler standing in front of me doesn’t know who Francis Scott Key was I’m not really interested in standing behind him while he (slowly) reads the monosyllabic prattle from the teevee just so he can tell his equally clueless parents about the flag being “from some war.” Why torture this kid, and everyone else stuck behind him, when he could just enjoy looking at the torn up flag with cool-ass bullet holes in it? Must he be educated on during my free time?

    In the olden days everyone, from the stupidest corn-fed, fly-over nitwit to Presidents and Kings could all comfortably gawk at Ol’ Glory flung over the rafters like a rug waiting for a few cleansing whaps from a broom. No need to wait in a line to get your patriotism on. No need for 21st century knowledge nuggets for the terminally dumb. If you were there with your parents they could tell you themselves about Fort McHenry, or not. My dad probably said something like “look, a flag” or “hurry up numbnuts, I want to get lunch.” Now we are subjected to the fascist whims of museum programming twatery.

    The people responsible for this “update” obviously were clueless as to why the old museum was so good. I imagine they are the sort of pompous plutocrats that simply hate the poor average American schmo and therefore positively despised the old museum that was made just for him/her. They are going to “educate” us dumb Americans about all the relevant details surrounding the War of 1812, the use of locomotives in the USA, and how kitchens looked in 1930 if it kills us, and have designed a Disneyland of Boring just to accomplish that torturous goal.

    Anyway PoP community, there’s my rant about the AmHisMu fully realized.

  • Postal museum is a good place for an hour or two with little kids. Worth a visit.

  • Amen, Odentex. Amen.

  • Here! Here!

    @Odentex, Personally I couldn’t agree with you more! I just couldn’t explain why we Americans were so proud of all that stuff that we put it in a big box on the Mall and said, “Here world, this is what we’ve got – this is what makes us Us.” It is (or was – I have to admit I haven’t been there since the do over) an innately American place and I just couldn’t explain it to the Frenchie who saw nothing but nonsense.

    Of course, this is the same guy that went swimming at Rumsey, and came home and asked me if DC was still segregated. Apparently while he was there a swimming group from the neighborhood (comprised of all older white folks) finished up and a school group (all young black kids) was getting started. Poor guy. Such a confusing first trip to the States.

  • Truly excellent rant Odentex

  • Big hit with the little kids. There is a dead stuffed dog (Owney the mail dog!) a mud wagon you can climb in, a big purple mail truck you can drive, a train for sorting mail, and a “dark forest” you can walk through.

    Seriously, the building is lovely, no lines, spotlessly clean and you can grab a beer at Cap City when you’re through.

    Check it out!

  • Sorry I missed this earlier, but I must be an odd duck because I love this bite-sized Smithsonian! It’s the perfect way to kill an hour. Never any lines or crowds and a welcome relief from the mall museums. Archives is my favorite museum-like destination, and this one is definitely up there on my list.

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