Leaving the Postal Museum: The Journey of a Pop-Up Cart


By Tory Haltermann, NPM Education Department Intern

When you visit a museum, you stroll through the halls and rooms inspecting objects. After you have seen all there is to be seen, you leave. But what if the museum left the halls and rooms behind? What if the museum came to you?

This summer the Education Department at the Postal Museum experimented with just that idea. As an education intern, I created an activity cart centered on the Dead Letter Office. The cart traveled to the Mall and back.

Creating the Cart:

After reading an AAM article and researching pop-up stores, a few concepts emerged that helped to make the cart:

  1. Head, Heart, Hands: In order to engage the visitor, we needed to hook them, or engage their heads, give them a reason to care, or engage their heart, and finally give their hands something to do.
  2. Branding the Space: Some of the places where we popped-up this summer are typical haunts for those trying to sell goods. We had to make sure people passing knew that we weren’t trying to sell them anything, but instead were offering an educational experience.
  3. What can carts do? We had to think about what a cart can offer that a museum cannot. How can carts interact with people? And where?

With these ideas in mind we popped-up on the Mall, and invited passersby to stop and sort mail. The people who came to the cart, and didn’t power-walk away from us, enjoyed the activity and said that they had learned something (every educators dream come true!).

The visitors were not the only ones who learned something from the pop-up experience. We learned:

  • Always bring tape, especially when you are working with paper products!
  • Check the weather (continuously), sometimes it’s sunny in the morning and rainy by the afternoon.
  • Be flexible, there may be a better location right around the corner.

People love take aways! By giving out postcards to participants, we successfully wrapped up the cart experience.

Ultimately, we hope to continue to pop-up and to expand the program with more interactive carts. When you’re walking around DC keep your eyes open for the Postal Museum pop-up carts!