The new Ford Education Center at the Smithsonian's National Postal Museum opened today, providing students with instant access to objects from the museum's vaults via the new custom designed interactive database. Museum Director Allen Kane and Ford Motor Company Fund President Sandra Ulsh were joined by students from Washington DC, Maryland and Virginia in launching the Center to the public.
The Ford Education Center was made possible by a $2 million grant from Ford Motor Company Fund. Museum and ultimately on line visitors will be able to create their own virtual collections. Visitors will be able to view images of a wide variety of objects, access curatorial information, learn about an object's history, conduct searches and locate stamps on exhibition.
"Today's exciting event is only the beginning of the partnership between the Postal Museum and Ford Motor Company Fund," Kane said. "We look forward to the spring launch of the online version of the educational tool unveiled today. The new Web application will allow even greater virtual access to the museum's collections to visitors from around the country and around the world."
Students from Stuart Hobson Middle School in Washington, D.C., Saratoga Elementary School in Springfield, Va and Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring, Md were some of the first visitors to see some of the rarely viewed objects, such as a sheet of stamps issued by the Confederate States of America, a bus from the Motorized Highway Post Office Service and a coconut mailed by a U.S soldier to his wife during World War II.
"The National Postal Museum has helped me bring American history alive for my students both at the museum and in my classroom," said Amy Trenkle, eighth grade teacher at Stuart Hobson. "The interaction with the Postal Museum has brought depth and enthusiasm to my students' projects." Each multimedia station allows visitors to explore objects rarely on view within the Postal Museum's galleries. The objects and interpretive text enhance the visitors understanding of postal history and its connection to the history of our nation. The center also includes colorful wall graphics that will illustrate everyday themes depicted on stamps.
The Ford gift will also help to fund a hand-held computer tour of the museum. The electronic guide will enhance visitor tours with a variety of in-depth information such as way-finding maps, historical photographs and documents, and video clips from stamp designers, historians or postal workers. "As Ford celebrates its 100th anniversary, we are proud to continue our longstanding commitment to educational programs that increase accessibility to museum and cultural resources." Sandra E. Ulsh, president of Ford Motor Company Fund, said, "We believe that the Ford Education Center at the National Postal Museum will enhance visitors' experiences at the museum and provide a valuable tool for educators to excite students about our postal system." In June 2004, the Center will open an exhibition recounting the role of motor vehicles in postal history, including the display of a 1931 Ford Model A mail truck. This truck, in the museum's collection since 1993, was one of the 8,000 vehicles that comprised the 1930s postal fleet. Currently, more than 33,000 Ford vehicles, from heavy trucks to special right-hand drive vehicles, are used to transport and deliver mail in communities all across America.
Ford Motor Company's support of the National Postal Museum is part of the company's longstanding commitment to education and the arts. Ford is committed to creating educational opportunities that stimulate creativity and promote cultural diversity. Since its founding in 1903, Ford has supported programs that enhance and enrich the communities where it does business. In 2002, Ford dedicated more than $40 million to educational initiatives and $11 million to cultural sponsorships, from nationally touring exhibitions and performing arts events, to university scholarships and programs geared toward school children.
The National Postal Museum is located at 2 Massachusetts Ave. N.E., in the Old City Post Office Building, across from Union Station. The museum is open seven days a week, from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. All Smithsonian museums are closed Christmas Day.
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