On today’s date in 1974, Canada’s Post Office Department (now Canada Post) opened the National Postal Museum.
Established in 1971 and opened in 1974, the National Postal Museum joined the Canadian Museum of Civilization (now the Canadian Museum of History) in 1988.
“The National Postal Museum, which is part of the Post Office Department, maintains a special relationship with the staff of the Archives,” wrote Kenneth Mackenzie in an article entitled, “Canadian Postal History Sources,” and published in the Winter 1979-80 issue of Archivaria, a biannual peer-reviewed academic journal published by the Association of Canadian Archivists.
“The Museum staff feels a strong proprietary interest in post office records, and does not consider that the transfer of material to the Archives excuses them from being thoroughly conversant with the historical evidence. In fact, since the Museum opened in September 1974, staff members have been trying to recapture the spirit of the post office by careful studies of the past.
“The Museum does not have archives as such, but by virtue of the rapport existing between the two institutions, the Museum has retained small sections of post office records to which very frequent reference is made either because of queries from the stamp-collecting public, or because of the Museum’s everyday activities.”
The four categories of material included:
- post office impression books, “better known as the Museum Proofbooks,” according to Mackenzie;
- post office records cards;
- philatelic records; and
- a “small number of unique and attractive items required for Museum displays,” Mackenzie added.
In 1996, the museum changed its name to the Canadian Postal Museum but closed less than a decade later – in November 2012 – before reopening two years later as an exhibition at the Canadian Museum of History.
A permanent exhibition, it features all of the stamps issued in Canada from 1851, when the first issue from what was then the Province of Canada featured an industrious beaver, to the present day.
Artifacts from the museum’s former collection are also used to illustrate the stories behind the creation of some of Canada’s most memorable stamps, including the stained-glass window reproduced on the 1976 “Nativity” stamp and a quilt replicated on the 1996 “Canada Day” stamp.