US Stamps

By William F. Sharpe

How to navigate the National Postal Museum website

November 19, 2016 11:00 AM

  • The main menu of the National Postal Museum’s website.
  • A National Postal Museum web page devoted to stamp collecting.
  • A page from “The Art of Christmas Stamps” online exhibit.

By William F. Sharpe

It’s been more than six years since I’ve devoted a full column to the Smithsonian National Postal Museum here (Linn’s, March 15, 2010). This site offers a wealth of information for collectors. It also provides details about current physical exhibits at the museum, as well as links to virtual versions of many of them.

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In her Editor’s Insight column in the Oct. 10 Linn’s, Donna Houseman reported on her family visit to the National Postal Museum. She mentioned that the museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and is only closed on Christmas day.

If you visit the museum in person before March 25, 2018, you can see the exhibit “Trailblazing: 100 Years of our National Parks.” This exhibit also can be viewed online. For the online view, click on “Exhibits” on the main menu (see the nearby illustration), next find current exhibits, click on the trailblazing title, then click on the word “Exhibit” to see the outline of items from the exhibit.

I suggest that you start at the beginning and work your way through the exhibit by clicking the “Next” option at the bottom of each page. You also can select from the icons on the left of each subsequent page to skip through to any page.

I was surprised to see Ansel Adam’s stamp album shown on the first page of this exhibit. I knew he was a great photographer; I didn’t realize he also was a stamp collector.

Other exhibits can be viewed in a similar manner. In addition to the featured physical/online exhibits there are a number of virtual-only exhibits. These include four exhibits featuring women on stamps.

If you click on “Stamp Collecting” at the top of the National Postal Museum’s home page, you will find a page devoted to collectors. You can watch three videos about stamps, see a list of stamp collection resources at the museum, learn about famous stamp collectors, and view the museum’s online database of United States stamps. The page also offers a basic introduction to stamp collecting.

You can find more virtual exhibits at the companion Arago site, arago.si.edu. Click on “View all Exhibits” on the main page to see a list of various categories.

I first selected “Topical Interests” and then “The Art of Christmas Stamps” to see 32 pages of religious U.S. Christmas stamps. You can click on the arrows at the bottom of each page to go through this and other exhibits.

If click on the word “Glossary” found at the bottom of each exhibit page, a list of philatelic terms pops up in a separate window.

One of the older exhibits still available at the Arago site is Bill Senkus’ “Alphabetilately,” which illustrates stamps from A through Z. You’ll find this exhibit listed under “Curator’s Choice.”

The National Postal Museum has disabled many features of the Arago collection database while the website undergoes a complete redesign. The database no longer offers user accounts, my collection, or advanced search features.

The search box at the top right of the National Postal Museum’s home page still provides results. My search for “Thomas Edison” found his Famous Americans stamp (Scott 945) and his Electric Light stamp (656).