Trav­el­ing Ex­hibit Fea­tures Mil­i­tary Mail Call His­tory

Riverbank News - - 209 LIVING -

The Smith­so­nian Trav­el­ing Ex­hi­bi­tion “Mail Call” will de­but on Satur­day, Aug. 4 at the USS Hor­net Sea, Air and Space Mu­seum in Alameda, Cal­i­for­nia, and will re­main on view through Oct. 14, be­fore con­tin­u­ing on its 14-city na­tional tour.

The Mu­seum, an af­fil­i­ate of the Smith­so­nian In­sti­tu­tion, is also host­ing a grand open­ing cer­e­mony of the ex­hi­bi­tion on Sun­day, Aug. 26, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The Air Force Band and an ar­ray of food trucks will join the Mu­seum to cel­e­brate the event. The Mu­seum will of­fer free ad­mis­sion to the pub­lic on this day un­til noon.

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 in- ter­est­ing 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 sta­tio- nery 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.

“Mail has al­ways played a very im­por­tant role in the lives of the men and women of our armed forces and their fam­i­lies at home,” said ex­hibit cu­ra­tor Lynn Hei­del­baugh of the Na­tional Postal Mu­seum. “Writ­ing and re­ceiv­ing cor­re­spon­dence has a sig­nif­i­cant power to shape morale. The re­la­tion­ship be­tween mail and morale is ex­pressed time and again in mes­sages from de­ployed mil­i­tary per­son­nel, and it is a com­pelling rea­son be­hind the ex­traor­di­nary ef­forts to main­tain timely mail ser­vice.”

Air­craft Car­rier Hor­net Foun­da­tion pre­serves and hon­ors the legacy of the USS Hor­net and its role in naval avi­a­tion, the de­fense of our coun­try, the Apollo Pro­gram and the ex­plo­ration of space. Through field trips and live-aboard ex­pe­ri­ences, the USS Hor­net of­fers ed­u­ca­tional pro­grams fo­cus­ing on naval his­tory, sci­ence and space tech­nol­ogy. A reg­is­tered state and na­tional his­toric land­mark, the ship is open to the pub­lic daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and is per­ma­nently berthed at 707 W. Hor­net Ave., Pier 3 in Alameda.

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