By Erin Blasco, Public Programs Coordinator
A family gathers around the pigeon holes in the museum’s Railway Post Office (RPO) and a volunteer named Tricia sets the timer for one minute, saying “On your mark, get set, go!” In a flash, the kids start sorting, racing to see who can sort the most letters before the buzzer sounds.
No matter how many letters they manage to sort, Tricia gives each visitor a hearty congrats and their very own RPO badge. They leave the train car with a sense of accomplishment and an appreciation for the challenging work done by RPO clerks.
After four hours of “riding the rails” with museum visitors, Tricia is still smiling. “This activity is so fun,” she says. “It just sells itself.”
Running the Railway Post Office activity is just one of many duties performed by public program volunteers. They greet visitors, answer questions, and make visitors’ museum experiences both fun and educational.
New volunteers attended Volunteer Orientation on Saturday, where they got an introduction to the museum exhibits as well as educational techniques. Returning volunteers Hessie and Emiko shared tips and tricks from their volunteer experiences, from how to handle large groups to how to best interact with senior citizens visiting the museum.
The volunteer team is a diverse group of people, including philatelists, history buffs, and the children of US Postal Service employees, as well as Capitol Hill neighbors, museum buffs, and people who just moved to the area. Ashley, who found out about the opportunity on Craigslist, says “I came from a background of USPS workers and grew to love the Postal Service.” Kelly, who is interning in DC this fall, said “I am interested in all kinds of US history—and now I am interested in stamps!”
Meet some of the new volunteers at events throughout the fall!