The Most Unlikely Place for a Museum

December 14, 2010 MuseumChick

I can find a museum anywhere, or do they find me?

Probably one of the most unlikely places I have ever stumbled upon a museum, I found one while mailing a letter at the main post office in NYC (the really big one across from Penn Station).  I recently found out it has a name other than, “that big post office across from Penn Station”. It is the James Farley Post Office. Inside this building’s beautiful Beaux Arts architecture is a quiet museum of postal history.

Not expecting to run into a museum when I was mailing a letter, I didn’t leave myself much time to explore but I did see a few interesting letters in these cases, such as…

…original mail from during the Civil War, making these envelopes over 146 years old. Stamp enthusiasts will find the canceled stamps especially interesting and there is mail on display going back to the 1800′s.

Besides the many letters from times of war, there are envelopes made out of unusual materials. There is a brass postcard from the early 20th century along with wooden and leather postcards.

This mail from a WWII internment camp reminds us of a sad history when after the attack on Pearl Harbor, anyone considered a threat, especially Japanese, Germans and Italians were rounded up and shipped off to these camps. This letter looks like it may have been from a Japanese detainee of war.

On a more positive note- the ceiling in the lobby is particularly grand and detailed.

©2010 Danee Gilmartin All rights reserved

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  1. Simo 04.20.2013

    This Museum is now totally neglected, almost abandoned and dirty. My hotel was just few steps away of the fine General Post Office of NYC, also neglected by services and maintenance. No Philately shop anymore…go to for the commemorative stamps they said, very sad!

    • MuseumChick 04.20.2013

      Hi Simo- That is too bad. I haven’t been there since I wrote this post. I guess they don’t get much funding for the museum. Too bad. But thanks for your comment!

  2. Drothy 11.14.2011

    Is it possible to have a tour of the post office itself?
    I have a group of developmentally disabled adults interested in visiting the post office.

    • MuseumChick 11.14.2011

      Hi Dorothy,

      I’m not an authority at the Post Office so I don’t know the official rules for tours. I just walked in and toured the museum and PO by myself. It seemed that you can go in with as many people as you’d like whenever the PO and museum is regularly open.

      Hope this helps!

  3. Kristina 12.16.2010

    Wow! Check out the ceiling. It's intricately designed. Those letters are centuries old and the stamps!!! I was wondering how the brass and wood postcards look like….

    I wish they could post a bigger sign board outside so people could visit them. Stamp collectors will be very ecstatic! Great post! What a find!

    • MuseumChick 12.16.2010

      Hi Kristina- I'm glad you liked the post! They should make a bigger sign or make the museum more obvious so that more people knew about it. My husband saw the other postcards on a more recent day. He said they looked like the same shape and size as a paper postcard and were engraved. Thanks for your comment!