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Virtual Indian stamp collection grows

WASHINGTON – The Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum and the National Museum of the American Indian are continuing to update a digital collection of stamps, “The American Indian on Stamps: Profiles in Leadership, Accomplishment and Cultural Celebration.”

The collection first appeared in November in recognition of Native American Heritage Month, and it has received updates with new information since then.

The presentation currently highlights 40 of approximately 70 stamps the U.S. Postal Service has issued related to Native Americans since 1875, according to postal museum officials.

 

Organizers are now in the process of creating more pages containing cultural information related to the Indian-focused stamps on display. The additions should be uploaded shortly and will integrate seamlessly into the existing collection.

The Web site’s technology allows visitors to magnify images to almost the size of their computer screen and see details similar to an in-person viewing.

The collection is intended to be user-friendly. Thus, if a visitor wants to learn more about the 29-cent Sacagawea stamp displayed on the homepage of the exhibit, he or she would simply click on the image, which leads to more historical information about the stamp, as well as a zoom page, which allows magnification of intricate details, like stitching and beadwork.

On another page, later in the collection, readers can learn about Sacagawea’s Shoshone heritage and see cultural artifacts relating to her tribe and others from her region, which can also be zoomed into higher resolutions with a few mouse clicks.

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Many of the stamps are accompanied by information about the artists and mediums used to create them. Like the Sacagawea stamp, some are juxtaposed with objects and historical images from the vast collections of the NMAI.

 




“One of the most intriguing aspects of this one-of-a-kind Web site is that it shows the American Indian presence on stamps for over a century, alongside objects that inspired their creation,” said Kevin Gover, the Pawnee/Comanche director of the NMAI.

Thomas Lera, a research specialist at the postal museum who helped create the collection, said the site has already proven to be a popular tool for stamp collectors, historians and students. He estimated thousands of users have visited the virtual collection since it went live last fall.

Lera said the average length people spent viewing the online collection has tended to be much longer than the average amount of time a person spends at a single Web site. He likened the experience to getting caught up in a good book.

“It’s a good starting point for learning. The site has plenty of references and citations to direct to other readings and learning materials.”

Lera noted that the collection not only highlights historical Indian achievements, but also contemporary developments, like modern textile making and Indian sporting contributions.

He said the collection will continue to be displayed online for many years to come, and will be further highlighted in ensuing Native heritage months.