Jenny Lynch gives new meaning to the term “institutional knowledge.”
The Postal Service historian has been with the organization for more than 32 years, researching and answering questions from employees and the public, safekeeping historical records and handling artifacts for posterity.
But as the driving force behind the publication of several postal histories, including Publication 100, The United States Postal Service: An American History, she will be taking another kind of institutional knowledge with her when she retires Dec. 1.
Lynch, who began her USPS career as a temporary summer office clerk, said she will miss “the thrill of finding and providing answers to unusual questions — questions that I had to research to even understand,” as well as “the unique role of being a steward of USPS history.”
She addressed that special responsibility in a blog post for the American Association for State and Local History, “Public Historian, Corporate Historian.” Presciently, in a post she wrote for the site in 2015, she offered advice for the next person to hold her job.
Do: Do the best you can with the resources on hand.
Don’t: Wear white, and wear beige or light gray only if you like taking risks. The day you wear white will be the day you receive a rusty circa 1900 cast-iron mailbox or 19th century Post Office account book with a crumbling binding.
One of the more memorable moments of her tenure came in 2010, when she helped locate proof of ownership of a postal facility in San Diego worth millions of dollars. That evidence was critical to a planned sale of the property.
And in 2014 and 2015, two artifacts she helped transfer to the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum — a collection box damaged by a 2007 Kansas tornado and a 1913 cash book from a Post Office that served an African American community in New Mexico — were placed on exhibit by the museum.
“Both items had been preserved by postal employees in the field who recognized their importance,” she said.
Lynch cited the many articles she wrote for the Postal History section of usps.com as her proudest achievement. “It’s given me a greater appreciation for our organization,” she said.
Her next chapter will not involve history in any way — although she says a love for writing and researching is in her DNA, so she’s not ruling it out completely.
Rather, she and her husband plan to move from Northern Virginia with their three chickens to West Virginia to live closer to nature, grow their own food and spend more time outdoors.
“It’s been an honor to serve as USPS historian,” Lynch said. “I’m a proud postal worker.”
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