November 4th, 2017 – January 7th, 2018
A name is shouted out, and a parcel is handed through the crowd to its eager recipient—mail call is a moment when the front line and home front connect. Letters, news and packages from home unite families, boost morale and in wartime, elevate the ordinary to the extraordinary.
The traveling version of the National Postal Museum’s permanent exhibition, “Mail Call” explores the history of America’s military postal system, and examines how even in today’s era of instant communication, troops overseas continue to treasure mail delivered from home. Organized and circulated by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service, the exhibition tells the fascinating story of military mail and communication—from the American Revolution to current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Throughout American history, the military and postal service have combined forces to deliver mail under challenging—often extreme—circumstances. But whether it takes place at headquarters or in hostile territory, on a submarine or in the desert, mail call forges a vital link with home.
On the battlefront and at home, mail has long sustained the vital connections between military service members and their family and friends. With compelling documents, photographs, illustrations and audio stations, “Mail Call” celebrates the importance of this correspondence. Visitors can discover how military mail communication has changed throughout history, learn about the armed forces postal system and experience military mail through interesting objects and correspondence both written and recorded on audiotape. The exhibit offers an appreciation of the importance of military mail and the hard work that has gone into connecting service men and women to their government, community and loved ones at home.
“Mail Call” features a number of items that bring to life the story of military mail. One such highlight is a kit with supplies for “Victory Mail,” a microfilm process developed in World War II to dramatically shrink the volume and weight of personal letters. Beginning in 1942, V-Mail used standardized stationery and microfilm processing to produce lighter, smaller cargo—150,000 microfilmed letters could fit in one mailbag. Visitors will also gain access to dramatic firsthand records and heartfelt sentiments through excerpts from letters exchanged between writers on the front line and the home front. The exhibit also explores how the military postal system works today and describes the new ways the men and women of the armed forces are communicating with home.