Sunday, September 29, 2013

Fire & Ice: Hindenburg and Titanic

Where: National Postal Museum

When: through January 6, 2014

2012 marked the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic and the 75th anniversary of the crash of the Hindenberg.  In honor of these melancholy remembrances, the Postal Museum has set up a display on both of them together, focusing on the postal angle in both.

Both vessels carried mail in order to underwrite their expenses, and both had post offices on board, along with postal employees.  It was a mark of social distinction to send a letter from the Titanic or the Hindenberg; it showed you were rich enough to travel on them!

There's plenty of information in this exhibit about both accidents: the terrible loss of life and the resulting popularization of the two incidents.  In addition to being disasters involving modes of transportation, they've both become 20th century icons.  Both are cases of the mighty falling, a reminder that human beings cannot always control nature.  We seem to get this lesson brought home to us every night on the news now, but there's something about the rich and elegant being forced to contend with forces beyond their control that grabs the imagination.

A Smithsonian connection in relation to the Hindenberg: it had sailed over the Mall before heading north to New Jersey, where it crashed.

A sad fact about the Titanic: all of the musicians in the band, the one playing "Nearer My God to Thee," perished in the shipwreck.

Verdict: Worth a visit if you are interested in the Titanic or Hindenberg - it also provides an opportunity to see the expanded museum.  There's now a set of galleries on the main floor, where the post office used to be.  Philatelists take note!

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