My Night at the Museum: Xerox in the Smithsonian

The Sept. 13 opening reception for the Smithsonian National Postal Museum’s new virtual exhibit, “America’s Mailing Industry,” was held in the museum’s exhibit hall.

Xerox is no stranger to the Smithsonian Institution, the group of U.S. government-administered museums and research centers whose collection of 138 million items has earned it the nickname, “the nation’s attic.” Our Xerox 914 copier has been among those items since 1985, as one of the seminal technology innovations of the 20th century, the first plain-paper copier.
So I was thrilled to represent Xerox at a recent reception introducing a new virtual exhibit at the Smithsonian National Postal Museum titled, “America’s Mailing Industry.” Xerox is the only printing manufacturer among the 70 companies represented in the exhibit. But I felt right at home because more than half of the companies exhibiting are Xerox customers.
The exhibit tells the story of the partnership between the U.S. Postal Service and private industry, which have jointly helped Americans communicate and conduct business for more than 200 years. Today the partnership employs nearly 8 million people and has an economic value of more than $1 trillion. The museum director, Allen Kane, calls it “quite possibly the most successful government–private sector partnership in our nation’s history.”
Like many Smithsonian exhibitions, this one is as much about our contemporary world as it is about our past. As Postmaster General of the United States, Megan Brennan said in her remarks to the 120 industry professionals at the reception,

“One of the things (visitors) will see is not just our legacy and the history of the industry. They’ll learn how we’re focused on better serving the needs of the American public. They’ll recognize how we sustain America’s economy and influence society. They will also see that we have exciting plans for the future.
“As we well know this is a very pivotal time for the industry…. (We are) on the cusp of a new era. And this new era is steadily coming into focus. Today we’re supporting America’s ecommerce and powerful omni-channel marketing efforts. Tomorrow we’ll look to ensure that mail is a seamless extension of digital experiences. We’ll deliver better experiences for the consumer and provide marketers with greater value on their investment. And we’ll do this together.“

Xerox’s exhibit also comprehends past, present and future. Our contributions to the industry began in earnest a number of years after our own Gary Starkweather invented the laser printer in 1969. Our first laser printer, the 9700, introduced in 1977, was designed for printing statements, invoices and other documents containing the transactional data then housed on mainframe computers, for subsequent mailing.
This was the beginning of a major transformation in print-and-mail facilities that continues to this day toward higher quality print and evermore automated production processes. Our 9700 printed 2 pages per second, producing the industry’s first computer output that achieved “letter-quality” (300 dots per inch resolution) and incorporated graphics. It led Xerox partners like Pitney-Bowes, also represented in the exhibit, to create in-line finishing systems for automating mail preparation processes, such as inserting documents into envelopes. Over the years, these technologies evolved to enable fully automated print-and-mail centers, and to form the basis for whole new businesses, like automated production of full-color photo books, calendars and greeting cards from personal photos and orders submitted over the Web.
You can learn more about our contributions to the America’s mailing industry, and our vision for current and future print-and-mail businesses by visiting the Xerox page in the exhibition.
How are you contributing to America’s mailing industry—or taking advantage of it to advance your business?

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