Next time I go to Ottawa, which is usually about once a year, I intend to stop by the Canadian Museum of History so I can check out the new stamp room. Some of you may recall a time when Canada had a dedicated postal museum located within the Museum of History. I remember going through a bit more than a year before it was closed. Compared to the rest of the museum, it looked a bit tired and I wondered how many non-collectors would be compelled to spend the time checking out the room. Certainly, compared to the rest of the museum, it was not particularly busy. And, it was also sort of hard to find.
It was closed down several years ago, with promises we would see some new use of the museum’s philatelic resources. At the time, I was concerned the museum’s philatelic resources would be consigned to a back room, and the best we would be able to hope for was the odd postal item tucked into part of an exhibit in order to provide some detail. Let’s face it, stamps are a lot less exciting than many of the colourful characters and places that make up our history. So I was pleasantly surprised when I heard stamps were returning to the museum in a big way.
For one thing, there is only one national stamp collection. Having it on display so that Canadians can see our philatelic history in one room is incredible. It is even better to know the exhibit is designed with the future in mind, and that the exhibit will be kept up-to-date as new stamps are issued in coming years. The real good news is that the stamps are being supplemented by related exhibits explaining how the stamps are produced, and even featuring some of the actual stamp subjects. The museum has even taken the effort to include some designs that never got off the board. This sort of exhibit does two things. First, it presents stamps in a manner that is interesting to average Canadians, who may consider the subject as dry as English toast. Secondly, it presents stamps as authentic pieces of art.
The vast majority of postage stamps are the work of artists. Even stamps based on single photographs are generally the work of talented photographers.
What’s more, we can expect to see postal history integrated into other parts of the museum. Although we don’t know the details yet, the idea of taking stamps and postal history out of its own little box and giving it a context in terms of the people and the events of the past is a really exciting idea. Finally, the idea of a travelling exhibit on the engraver’s art, is more good news. Rather than wait for Canadians to make the trek to the capital region, then hoping they will take time out to visit a museum, and then hoping yet further that they will stumble on the stamp room, stamps will be hitting the road and coming to museums across Canada. Sounds to me like the arrival of the exhibit in your hometown could make a great club outing.