For decades, Joyce Williams has documented the history of space travel, the civil rights movement and even memorialized each of the U.S. presidents.
The 77-year-old history buff does it all through the art of stamp collecting. She mounts her stamp collections with relevant clippings from newspapers and magazines - creating an impromptu history textbook as she goes.
“I enjoy relating the history of the stamps which go back 30, 40, 50 years,” Williams said. “And I can relate them to what’s happening today.”
Williams began collecting stamps when she was about 8 years old - it was also her father’s favorite hobby. She won her first award for a collection and display when she was 15, and still has the original display and the trophy.
Among at least 25 thick books filled with Williams’ stamp collections, there’s a lot of history to browse right from the comfort of the Huntington Station woman’s home.
“I can travel the whole wide world right here in this house,” she said.
She’s learned more about geography and foreign countries than she ever did in school.
“I never even heard of Yemen before I found a stamp for it,” she said.
Williams’ collection on Black History Month was transferred onto poster boards and displayed in February as an exhibit in the halls of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Huntington, where she is a member.
When the protests broke out in Egypt, she ran to her stamp book and flipped open to her Egypt collection. Right there in the King Tut section, she found a photograph she had cut out of National Geographic of the same building in Tahrir Square she was seeing on TV.
She’s eagerly awaiting the final space shuttle missions and the British royal wedding, for both of which she’s sure the U.S. Postal Service will issue stamps. And as she browses newspapers and magazines, always in the back of her mind is, “Do I have a stamp for that?” she said.
She couldn’t put a number on how many stamps she might have, but it’s easily thousands, she said. She’s spent, at times, six to eight hours putting together a display and she loves every second of it. In fact, it’s part of the reason she retired from her job as a clinical social worker in the Department of Veterans Affairs two years ago.
“It gives me more time to spend on the stamps,” she said.
Nothing in her collection is of any significant value, she said, except to her.
“For me, I’m very grateful that my father got me into this,” she said. “It’s a way of learning that’s taken me from childhood through my entire life.”
Photo: Joyce Williams, 77, of Huntington Station documents history through the art of stamp collecting. (March 31, 2011)