Museum offers app to unlock content, videos

The Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum is inviting its visitors to navigate through an alternate reality.

The museum is offering an app (application) for iPhone and iPad devices that allows visitors “to unlock additional layers of interpretive content for select artifacts.”

MagnifiAR app, an augmented reality app, can be downloaded for free from Apple’s iTunes Store. The app functions with the museum exhibits “Pacific Exchange: China & U.S. Mail,” and “Mail by Rail.” Visitors can use it to find additional information, unlock trivia and games, and launch videos, including one about sorting mail on a railway mail car.

Pointing the camera of the mobile device at the rail exhibit’s Mail by Rail sign brings to life Owney the dog, the unofficial mascot of the Railway Post Office in the late 1800s. Triggered by the app, Owney invites visitors into the exhibit’s railway mail car, according to the museum.

Visitors without an Apple device or smartphone who present a valid photo identification can borrow an iPod Touch at the museum’s information desk.

“This new app encourages families to engage with exhibit artifacts in a fun new way at the National Postal Museum,” said museum director Allen Kane.

The app can also be used at home, noted K. Allison Wickers, the museum’s education director. By pointing the mobile device at a computer screen showing the museum website, the app will bring to life the animal stamps in the China exhibit.

The National Postal Museum is located at 2 Massachusetts Ave. N.E., Washington, D.C., across from Union Station. It is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., but closed on Dec. 25.

For additional information, visit www.postalmuseum.si.edu.