National Postal Museum
William H. Gross Stamp Gallery
Washington D.C., USA
The William H. Gross Stamp Gallery was completely renovated in the fall of 2013 as part of an expansion project at the National Postal Museum. The gallery is the largest space in the world dedicated to stamp collecting, and it offers a unique experience for the inexpert visitor as well as for the most discerning collector.
There are six themed areas with stunning exhibitions and interactive tools that reveal the amazing and evocative stories from the collection. There are hundreds of pullout frames with more than 20,000 objects, which allow visitors to see remarkable and rare stamps up close. These include stamps that had never before been shown to the public.
Architecture: Cho Benn Holback and Associates
Exhibition design: Gallagher and Associates
Goppion worked with the museum and exhibit designers to design and engineer a system of drawers that could hold a great number of pieces in quite a limited space. These drawers needed to be easy to open and close but robust enough to handle continuous movement. They needed to guarantee the highest levels of conservation and security that such a fragile and precious collection requires. They also needed to allow for curators to access the pieces on display easily. Finally, they needed to be aesthetically pleasing and fit in with the existing architecture.
Each of the 400 drawers realized based on numerous prototypes is made up of double-sided glass plates mounted on frames that can be pulled out. They allow visitors to look through this vast collection of stamps almost as if they were opening the pages of a big book. Colored markers on the ends of the frames give the visitor necessary information in order to find and consult the many pieces.
The sliding guides on the drawers have shock absorbers for braking to avoid harsh impacts and also have blocks that limit how far the drawers can be pulled out. Museum employees can take off the blocks to take the drawer out completely and open – via a rotating motion – the plates of glass. This allows for easy maintenance or switching out pieces. Each drawer has a technical compartment on the back that contains a hygroscopic system for relative humidity control.
The drawers, which were created especially for the needs of the Postal Museum but which have gone on to be fully integrated with Goppion’s products, have remarkable versatility in terms of their use. They lend themselves well to the conservation and display of many other thin materials like documents, prints, drawings, fabrics and coins.
The ability to hold a large number of works that are well organized and easily consultable in a limited amount of space make them especially suited to use in archives, which are open to the public or that can only be visited upon request.