Spellman Stamp Museum in Weston Re-Opens post-Pandemic
Weston’s Spellman Museum of Stamps and Postal History is an oft-overlooked treasure right in the heart of town, on the campus of Regis College. Due to the pandemic, the museum temporarily closed on March 15, 2020, and re-opened yesterday, July 8, 2021. On opening day, the Owl stopped in to see Henry Lukas, Director of Education, and see what was going on at this small and unique postal history museum.
There are only two stamp museums in the United States, the other one is part of the Smithsonian in Washington, DC, and probably does not have the same je-ne-sais-quoi (see, mom, I do use my junior high French) as the Spellman. It’s also not as old and is government-funded while the Spellman is a 501c3 organization. Obviously the Smithsonian does not reside in such a bucolic setting as Regis College where there is a backdoor entrance to the Conservation land at Highland Forest (note: Regis campus outside the museum is still closed to the general public).
Previous to this visit, the Owl had attended a snakes-on-stamps Stamps Come Alive! event in the basement meeting room. It was outrageous fun for those of us who love that kind of thing–we passed around various beautiful snakes and learned about them, and the stamps which bear their likenesses. No snakes were lost among the files, boxes of stamps and flotsam and jetsam, which is comforting to those who may want to visit the museum without snakes. Later this year, there will be an owl event–who will be in the front row? Me. Also, me.
What many don’t realize is the amount of history and stories being told through stamps. What are the important events of our times? Who are the people pictured on the stamps? Did you know that no one can have their likeness on a stamp in the US without being dead? Well, except the kitties and doggos, who one hopes are still feeling okay. You can be alive and on a stamp in other places in the world–QE2 certainly has a few stamps in her honor. Speaking of QE2, you may know that Great Britain was the first country to issue stamps, but did you know that Brazil was second? True story.
There is much to learn in the small exhibit space–you would think you would be done with it all in a half-hour. You would be wrong. I hope that some Civics classes take a nice walk up the street from the high school/middle school campus–and similarly, the elementary schools take a walk down. Much to know.
The current exhibit on Women’s Suffrage needed much longer than the 45 minutes the Owl had yesterday. Stamps are displayed alongside the stories of the women involved in the movement and the dates. and events that led to women having the vote. Also, a dress made of stamps! Eat your heart out, Lady Gaga.
The Owl being the Owl was also drawn to a display on nature and tree stamps…and an exhibit on OWLS! Hello! This sign explains a lot:
Joe Mullin, Executive Director of the Museum, also stopped by for a chat about the very cool post office inside the shop of the museum. You can buy yourself a stamp tie there, some postcards and books, and other stamp-y stuff. There is a library for research, and in the basement, a surprising number of volunteers were cataloging donated stamps and putting them into themed collections.
Back on the main floor, the Children’s Room contains all kinds of activities for the littles. My guess on sweet spot there? Maybe 5-10 years old though I personally wanted to make my own stamp art. There are age-appropriate books, many about Owney, the unofficial post office mascot from the late 19th century. Here’s a place where the Smithsonian may win over the Spellman, if you’re into taxidermy–his preserved body looks out over the exhibits there in DC. Honestly, no thank you. Washington can have that (insert joke on stuffed shirts).
So where did the Spellman get its name? That’s from Cardinal Spellman, who loved himself a stamp or two–his donation to the Sisters of St. Joseph was the beginning of the museum, which opened in 1963. The museum is a 501c3 that finds its funding through membership and grants.
The Spellman Museum is well worth a visit, either alone so you can read every last educational sign, or with your favorite family member willing to make collages with you out of 2 cent stamps. If you have a chance to walk around with Henry and hear all the tales, luck is definitely on your side. Current hours are Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from 12-5 and there is plentiful parking behind the museum at 241 Wellesley Street. Check the current stamp calendar and all the latest events here.