Saturday, April 8, 2023

Floored (Twice!) at the National Postal Museum

I got "floored" (twice!) during a recent visit to the Smithsonian National Postal Museum.

Over the next few months, I'll be doing some workshops with the staff at NPM and during some recent time on the museum floor I got into a conversation with one of the Security Staff named Murph.

Murph was super friendly and told me things about NPM's exhibitions and visitors that she's been observing over the past five years that she has worked at the museum.  (Someone has even posted about Murph on YouTube!)

One of Murph's favorite things to bring to visitors' attention is the floor in the main atrium of the Postal Museum. Many people literally walk right past the design of the tiles that represent letters with different-colored "stamps" in the floor's center section. (See the image at the top of this post.)

Murph also pointed out the border tiles (one shown below) that represented the back of an envelope -- perfect for a Postal Museum housed in a historic Post Office building!

To be honest, even though I had visited NPM before, I don't think I ever really paid attention to the floor tiles. But thanks to Murph, I did!

However, the other thing that "floored" me that day was being smacked in the face with my own bias about security staff in museums.  I guess I always imagine that museum security staff are surly and just staring out into space -- just "holding up the walls" for their entire shift.

However, it was clear from speaking with Murph that not only was she enthusiastic about her work at the National Postal Museum, but that she had also read every label and looked carefully at every artifact inside all of NPM's exhibitions.  

So the next time you visit a museum, keep an eye out for those special, small details, and lend an ear to the security staff while asking them about their favorite things to see and do inside.

Who knows? You might get "floored" in a positive way, too!

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Paul Orselli writes the posts on ExhibiTricks. Paul likes to combine interesting people, ideas, and materials to make exhibits (and entire museums!) with his company POW! (Paul Orselli Workshop, Inc.) Let's work on a project together!

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