Preservation Projects

The Preservation department staff, volunteers and interns perform various task to preserve the National Postal Museum’s collection. Here is a chance for a behind the scenes look at some of these projects.

Opening old crates at offsite facilities
Opening old crates at offsite facilities

Preserving the Highway Post Office Bus

The important history of the Highway Post Office Bus made it a popular artifact to be displayed and loaned to other institutions for many years. We know that the bus is safe and well preserved because of the many steps for constant care that the Smithsonian has taken since 1968, and the steps taken in the eight-month period over 2014-2015 will carry the bus in good stead for years to come.

Moving the Mailman’s Special

How many people does it take to move a Ford Model-T? The answer is: 11; four to actually do the work and 7 to stand around staring in amazement and anticipation. After almost 20 years of being on exhibit, the Ford Model-T, lovingly called the “Snowbird”, has been removed and sent to storage. The Snowbird, weighing 1800 pounds...

Crating Machines: Collections Care Fund at Work

The Collections Care Preservation Fund (CCPF) is a Smithsonian program created to fund critical collections care and preservation projects around the Institution.  Funds are distributed on a competitive basis each year.  In 2010, the museum received an award to fund the conservation treatment and custom crating of several postage stamp production machines in our collection.  They include a rotary intaglio web press, a coiling machine, a rotary perforating machine and an engravers table.  These machines were originally used at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP)...

Midnight Cleaning Preserves Precious Objects

Cleaning objects in the museum’s collection is one of the simplest ways to decrease deterioration and elongate their life span. Even if the physical act of cleaning an artifact is simple, reaching the objects can often present a challenge. The artifacts that fall on this list are the three planes, carriage, mail train car, and beacon found in the museum’s atrium. These objects are so large that it is impossible and or unsafe to clean them with a ladder. So, once a year the museum hires contractors and a JLF Lift to come in and clean the 6 objects. In order to not disrupt a visitor’s experience, the cleaning begins right after the museum closes.

Object-filled Crates Present a Challenging Project to Museum

About 30 years ago, 27 wooden crates filled with postal operations and philatelic* objects from the Smithsonian Institution’s National Philatelic Collection were shipped to a Smithsonian storage facility. The crates went untouched until 2007 because of a lack of space for processing and storage. It was not until the United States Postal Service provided the National Postal Museum with a facility that the process of opening the crates and inspecting their largely unknown contents began.

*Philatelic - relating to the collection and study of postage stamps, revenue stamps, stamped envelopes, postmarks, postal cards, covers, and similar material relating to postal history. (

Conservation of the Benjamin Franklin Statue

Depicting a dignified Benjamin Franklin with his hands gripping onto the edges of his suit vest as his robe drapes behind him, William Zorach created this pink Tennessee marble statue in 1935 on commission by the Section of Painting and Sculpture under the Treasury Department. The inscription identifies Franklin as “Printer, Journalist, Diplomat, Statesman, Philosopher and Father of the Postal Service.”

New Home for the Cover Collection

Folded letters, envelopes, post cards, postal stationery (aerograms, postal cards, stamped envelopes and wrappers)—if it has been sent through the mails (with or without franking), it is part of the Museum's Cover Collection. For more than 20 years, the cover collection has been housed in 15 large, metal cabinets with their drawers overflowing. In every conceivable size up to and beyond the standard 9 ½ inch long envelope, these objects have been almost inaccessible because of overcrowding and poor organization.