The Postal Museum in Prague is celebrating its 90th anniversary. The museum, which was founded very soon after the establishment of Czechoslovakia, has just launched a special exhibition focused on some of the highlights of its history.
Part of Czechoslovak – and today Czech – Post, the museum collects, documents and exhibits all things to do with the mail system, from postage stamps to horse-drawn carriages. On Tuesday, the museum launched a special exhibition to mark its 90th anniversary. The museum’s historian Jan Kramář took me around.
“The museum was founded in 1918 but its first exhibition was open in Karolinum, an old building of the Charles University, in 1928.It was founded because the first postal museum in the Austro-Hungarian Empire was founded in the late 1880s in the capital Vienna. The Czech lands did not have their own museum, and that’s why after the declaration of independence of Czechoslovakia, our postal officers wanted to have their own, Czechoslovak museum.”
“They can see a beautiful exhibition about the museum and the employees who worked here since the time it was established – for example Václav Dragoun, the museum’s first director, or Jiří Karásek ze Lvovic; he was a famous Czech writer of the first half of the 20th century.”
Here I see a cover of a Czechoslovak magazine from May 1970 about a robbery in the Postal Museum of ‘Blue Mercuries’. What happened?
“In the spring of 1970, there was a real robbery in the Postal Museum. Two burglars broke into it and stole a unique exhibit – a block of 80 stamps know as Blue Mercuries. These stamps were the first newspaper stamps in Austria, and in the world. They were issued in 1850.”
Were they found? Were the burglars caught?
“Yes, they were caught in the summer of the same year, and the stamps were returned to the museum.”
On the museum’s first floor you can still see the original painting of the living rooms of the building’s previous inhabitant, a miller. Some of the murals by the Prague painter Josef Matěj Navrátil have actually appeared on Czech stamps. All of the rooms are also featured in the exhibition. Jan Kramář says there are some rare and curious stamps on display.
“These are postage stamps that were never issued because of historical circumstance. These are for example stamps decided to the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. But the Soviet Union and its satellites, including Czechoslovakia, ended up boycotting the games.”
The exhibition is open until February 2. But if you choose to see it, don’t look for philatelists among the museum’s staff!
“There are no philatelists in this museum because we try to protect our stamps and we don’t have good experience with people who work here and collect stamps.”