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Special deliverers

Museum exhibit showcases diplomatic couriers

Diplomatic couriers use pouches to transport mail and packages. The type of pouch on the left was used from 1918 until the early 1960s. On the right is a modern-day diplomatic bag. Image: National Postal Museum

A new exhibit at the National Postal Museum in Washington, DC, takes a look at how another federal agency delivers letters, packages and even heavy equipment.

“None Swifter Than These: 100 Years of Diplomatic Couriers” opened in September and is on view through Jan. 26, 2020.

The U.S. Diplomatic Courier Service (DCS) carries the sensitive information, equipment and materials that make diplomatic communications between nations possible during wartime and peacetime.

The DCS is part of the State Department. It began as an Army courier unit that was established at the U.S. Embassy in Paris in 1918 to support American diplomats negotiating peace following World War I.

The 1,000-square-foot exhibit, which was developed by the State Department, shows visitors how a specialized delivery service for a government agency works and how it tackles similar logistical issues that the Postal Service faces.

The exhibit’s displays from the Cold War era are a particular favorite of Lynn Heidelbaugh, a Postal Museum curator.

During construction of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow in the mid-1980s, listening devices were discovered to have been embedded in the material used in the building, she explained. Among the items in the exhibit is a brick containing a microphone.

“I think it is fascinating to see the enormous change that goes on during the Cold War,” Heidelbaugh said. “They had to handle an extraordinary amount of material, both in volume and weight, in order to take security measures so that they are supplying embassies and consulates with materials that have not been tampered with.”

The museum’s website has more information.

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