"Systems at Work" Visitors’ Comments – Design a machine for making an improvement in mail processing or delivery – what would it be? What would it look like?


By Nancy Pope, Historian and Curator

At the end of the new “Systems at Work” exhibit, we ask visitors to think about three questions and leave their comments on post it notes in the gallery. The three questions are:

  1. What Role Does Mail Play In Your Life Today?
  2. What's the Biggest Challenge Facing the U.S. Postal Service Today?
  3. Design a machine for making an improvement in mail processing or delivery – what would it be? What would it look like?

This blog offers a look at some of the thoughts visitors have left in answer to our third question – “Design a machine for making an improvement in mail processing or delivery. What would it be?” This question has gotten fewer responses than the other two. But it has certainly gotten some of the most creative responses.

The question inspired our younger visitors to think about mail processing and delivery. More than a few of the responses have included diagrams or drawings of the new machine or processing system.

Send letters by catapult
Catapult / cannon / ballista mail got its turn, with the visitor adding a dramatic image of a letter being catapulted on its way to delivery.
I will make paper machine to help. Nathan
While Nathan didn’t offer specifics in his note, he did offer to “make paper machine to help,” which is certainly a step in the right direction. Thank you Nathan for your help!
pneumatic tube mail system diagram
Another visitor offered up what seems to be a version of the old pneumatic tube mail system, with a letter going in one side of a tube and out the other.
You will ride
I’m not quite sure how it works, but I certainly like the idea of riding a huge rollercoaster to collect my mail. Perhaps a theme park can start discussions with the postal service on seeing what they can do about that.
super terrific time transport turtle machine
And for those who are more interested in getting mail from the past and future as well as the present, nothing would beat a “super terrific time transport turtle machine” in getting it there!
Barcode on a mailbox drawing
Some of our more grounded visitors looked at branching out by using the theme of the intelligent barcode. Perhaps a mailbox with barcode scanning capabilities built in, so you would know not just when the mail arrived, but what it was.
Using your home PC to print stamps
Or even starting the process at your own computer, printing the stamp with coded information already on it.
I think you should
Finally, what has to be the best idea yet from any visitor, an incentive that would have just about everyone using the mail as often as possible. Because nothing beats free pies!

This question is a part of the museum's Systems at Work exhibit. We encourage the exhibits online visitors to leave their thoughts on these topics, just as visitors to the actual exhibit are doing. Click here to participate.


Nancy Pope

About the Author
The late Nancy A. Pope, a Smithsonian Institution curator and founding historian of the National Postal Museum, worked with the items in this collection since joining the Smithsonian Institution in 1984. In 1993 she curated the opening exhibitions for the National Postal Museum. Since then, she curated several additional exhibitions. Nancy led the project team that built the National Postal Museum's first website in 2002. She also created the museum's earliest social media presence in 2007.