In February 2008, the National Postal Museum received a major Smithsonian grant to digitize its certified plate proof collection. In this video the Smithsonian Channel tells the story from start to finish.
These are absolutely unique.
It's the only set of this material in the world
and so it's really an irreplaceable collection,
a very valuable collection, both in terms of its uniqueness but as a resource for scholars.
A stamp, a little stamp is a window into the
history, heritage, and heroes of the United States.
It's very important, the images.
At one point in time the Bureau of Engraving
were the ones that actually produced all the stamps off of a final plate
and the final plate, it was kinda very important, a lot of people had to sign off
that that was the right image and the right stamp.
We ended up with probably about 40,000 of them here.
In particular researchers love to look at that.
It's hard to see it because it's in the vault and there are so many,
but we're now digitizing it and so they'll be able to do it online at very high resolution.
My name is Emily Smith and I am a contract Register here,
specifically working with the certified plate proof collection.
I'm in charge of the digitizing project.
Due to the large size of these objects it was hard for us to digitize them here ourselves.
So from the 2,000 objects that have been selected,
I break them into object packages and shipping packages.
Due to the extreme rarity of these pieces, they're one-of-a-kind,
they're extremely unique, we have to have a security escort whenever they
leave the building in order to go to the digitizing facility.
So once a week security comes to the National Postal Museum,
they pick me up, they take me to the digitizing facility,
we transfer the objects and we go through our checklist.
We want to get the entire image,
all the edges and everything so they get the entire sheet.
So when this project is over, all those images will then go live on Arago.si.edu
and they'll have their own separate collection on there that researchers and the public can view.
But equally important is we're curating exhibits online.
We actually have visitors from 170 countries now.
And we've got an enormous population of visitors coming in online so we're
actually working two museums at the same time.