The Portal Service

May 1, 2021 - Ongoing

Originally installed at Courthouse Square, Santa Rosa
September 4 - December 4, 2020


After several months out to pasture, the Portal is once again open for civic duty, this time inside the Museum of Sonoma County, that happens to be housed in an Historic 1910 Santa Rosa Post Office and Federal Building. The public is invited to share personal stories, reflections, or artwork inspired by the question: What has it meant for Sonoma County residents to live through 2020? There is more than one way to participate: You can follow the online instructions and mail a letter to the portal, or you can bring in your 2-D artwork or letters from home. You can also simply fill out a Portal form at the Museum. Forms, letters, and artwork are submitted to the golden mailbox inside the Museum and are destined to become part of the Museum of Sonoma County’s historic archive.

In 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Jessica Rasmussen, Anna Wiziarde, and Julian Billotte opened the first known Portal in Courthouse Square, a gilded mailbox, for letters to the past or future. A cosmic response was issued to all participants, and to those who provided a return address, the "United States Portal Service" mailed responses. The exchanges are available to view on Instagram: @United.States.Portal.Service. A small sample of the letters received are viewable in this exhibit.

Towards the end of the project, the Portal Service was astonished to receive a cease and desist from the United States Postal Service. It was for infringement on USPS intellectual property, ie: the similarity of the name and the shape of the iconic collection box. Oddly, the USPS indicated that the removal date for the Portal should be no later than December 4th, 2020, which happened to be the exact, publicly scheduled removal date which was already in place. Because the removal date seemed like a wink, and because the project was in large part a tribute to the USPS, the Portal Service took the cease and desist to be an incredible compliment, a love letter really, and responded accordingly. The cease and desist, as well as the Portal Service’s response are available to view on the wall of letters in this exhibit.

In its three months on the square, the golden mailbox was skated on and over, twice used as an official ballot drop box, and bestowed with coins, pot, and champagne corks when Biden’s victory was announced. The Portal was tagged, tipped, and covered in flowers. In addition to letters, many objects passed through the Portal. From masks to un-smoked cigarettes, most of them seemed to carry meaning.

Over the course of the project, the Portal Service was honored to be featured in several publications and was most recently presented with the Bohemian’s venerable “Best of the North Bay” award, for Best Time Travel Device.


The numbers:

3 months to the day
27 letters to the future
8 letters to the past
52 letters on other topics
62 objects
2 ballots
34 portal professionals (responders)
3 gifts of marijuana
4 maintenance repairs
5 tags
1 cease and desist


The United States Portal Service was made possible by funding from Open & Out.

More about the United States Portal Service:

Museum of Sonoma County
475 Seventh Street
Santa Rosa, CA 95401
(707) 579-1500

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The mission of the Museum of Sonoma County is to engage and inspire our diverse community with art and history exhibitions, collections, and public programs that are inclusive, educational, and relevant.