Category Archives: Events

Students from the Worcester Polytechnic Institute Massachusetts visit the BPMA

We are a group of four students from Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) in Worcester, Massachusetts, USA. At the beginning of the summer, from May 12th to June 28th, we had the privilege of working with the British Postal Museum and Archive to develop better visitor evaluation strategies. The goal of our project was to help improve visitor evaluation within their exhibitions which primarily focused on the Last Post Exhibition.

Mail Rail

WPI Students take a tour of Mail Rail

The overall experience was fantastic, filled with opportunities and memories. We were able to visit and explore some of the most popular museums in London including the Natural History, Victorian and Albert, and Science museums. At these museums, we observed visitors to identify what they enjoyed and see how the set up can affect visitor engagement.

Nysa

Nysa at Last Post Coalbrookdale

We also had the pleasure of working with BPMA visitors. Getting to know those who enjoyed the BPMA’s work, and asking them for helpful insight into what they learned and what they think would improve the sites. Working at events and visiting the Last Post exhibition at Mansfield and Coalbrookdale was a thrilling experience; we not only learned about the exhibitions but also were able to test many different evaluation methods such as interview, surveys, creative writing/drawing activities and observations.

Shuyang

Shuyang with the postal uniform display

We gathered some informative and gratifying feedback, for example one visitor said she “…learned so much more about a city [she had] lived in for 40 years.” Others said that they “did not realize the extent of Post Office involvement in the First World War.” The feedback we gathered was helpful and greatly aided our research objectives.

Enjoying London

WPI Students enjoying London

Aside from gaining new knowledge about museum goers, as a team we were able to improve our professional writing skills, communicate with a broad range of people, and work efficiently in a group setting. This experience also enabled us to grow as young professionals; we believe this project has added to a foundation of what the working world is like.  Living in London was an experience of a lifetime; adapting and working in a different culture will enable us to adapt to all presented opportunities and continue to broaden our understanding of the world.

Thank you,

Angela, Nysa, Shuyang and George

Primary and secondary teachers needed for First World War focus group

First World War Teacher focus group. Thursday 19 June. 5.30-7pm.

We’re looking for teachers to take part in a focus group to consult on the development of a new digital First World War learning resource sponsored by Royal Mail. Teachers will be asked to feedback on draft designs and activity ideas across a range of National Curriculum subjects.

Students discover the First World War stories in our archive with Curator Vyki.

Students discover the First World War stories in our archive with Curator Vyki.

When: Thursday 19 June. 5.30-7pm
Where: 5 Almeida Street, London, N1 1AA 
(Directions will be provided)

You don’t need to prepare anything in advance. There will be complimentary refreshments and all participants will receive a £30 gift as a thank you.

To register your interest, please email Sally Sculthorpe, Learning Officer, at sally.sculthorpe@postalheritage.org.uk with your name, school and subject specialism by Friday 13 June.

Loughton Festival comes to the BPMA

It’s that time of the year again when Loughton, Essex celebrates its amazing cultural heritage at the Loughton Festival. Once more we’ll be opening the doors to our museum store in Debden to take part in this fantastic community event. There will be a range of great activities on offer over the two days providing entertainment for adults and children alike…

Vehicles, telephone boxes and more all at our Museum Store

Vehicles, telephone boxes and more all at our Museum Store!

Saturday – Adult Event

On Saturday come and take part in an artist-led workshop, where you will have the opportunity to design your own post-card or letter. From there take a self-guided tour exploring the highlights of our museum collection. From the iconic red telephone kiosks and post boxes to the Morris van, Mail Coach and ingenious Victorian pneumatic rail cars – they all tell the captivating story of communication past and present.

Letters with unusual addresses

Letters with unusual addresses.

We’ll also be joined by BPMA curator, Emma Harper, who will be giving a fascinating talk revealing some hidden gems from the collection. Relax with some drinks and nibbles, while Emma to takes you on a journey through over two centuries of “the curious culture of letter writing.”

When: Saturday 10 May 2014, Drop in from 10.00am-4.00pm, Evening talk and refreshments 4.00pm-5.00pm
Where: 
The British Postal Museum Store, Essex
Book in advance for the evening talk

Sunday – Family Event

Drop in on Sunday where you will find an array of family friendly activities. Have a go at discovering mystery objects in our trail and win a prize if you succeed in your task.

For when you are feeling creative there will be craft activities on offer, including design and send your own post card – which you can send to family or friends for free! After that, try designing and building your own mini letter box.

There will also be the opportunity to find out what it was like be a postie from the past through trying on old uniforms and handling some real museum objects – remember to bring your camera!

When: Sunday 11 May 2014, Drop in from 10.00am-4.00pm
Where: 
The British Postal Museum Store, Essex

-Hannah Clipson, Community Learning Officer

 

We’re taking part in Cityread London 2014

Rhyl Primary School, image courtesy of Cityread by Rosie Angus.

Image courtesy of Cityread by Rosie Angus.

Each April Cityread  asks  people in London to pick up the same book and read it together.  The book is usually for adults, but this year there’s also a children’s book  – Private Peaceful by Michael Morpurgo.

As part of the month of reading Cityread are running activities across London. We were keen to get involved because part of the plot of Private Peaceful unfolds through letters sent by soldiers home to their loved ones.

I recently took part in Cityread First World War Letter Writing and Exchange workshops for local schools. Classes visited the Camden Local Studies and Archives centre to find out more about the First World War in their area and use this as inspiration to write their own letters. Their letters will be sent to a partner school in London who in turn will reply with stories about the war in their area.

Here I am talking to students from Hampstead School.

Image courtesy of Cityread by Rosie Angus.

Image courtesy of Cityread by Rosie Angus.

As well as school workshops, we’re also excited to be taking part in the Cityread Family Day at the Museum of London this Saturday. We’ll be asking visitors to write their own postcards home from the front line.

We hope to see you there!

-Sally Sculthorpe, Learning Officer

The BPMA turns 10!

Tomorrow the BPMA turns 10 years old. Director Adrian Steel reflects on the last ten years in today’s post.

In the next couple of weeks we will be celebrating a couple of major milestones. On 9 April I will be marking five years at the helm of the good ship BPMA, and even more excitingly on 29 March, BPMA itself will be 10 years old.

GPO Greetings Telegram. James Matwuss-Judd. 1962

GPO Greetings Telegram. James Matwuss-Judd. 1962

Back in 2004 there was a great deal of work being done to set up what was then a very new idea: an independent charity to manage the heritage services of a larger institution. This is now more commonplace but was then pioneering.

Catalogue team meeting back in 2006. Recognise any familiar faces?

Catalogue team meeting back in 2006. Recognise any familiar faces?

Looking back over the ten years, BPMA’s achievement is not one of big bangs but stage-by-stage advance. Under the leadership of Tony Conder, BPMA’s first CEO, we established our independence from Royal Mail through a series of partnerships, exhibitions and ventures culminating in the opening of the Museum of the Post Office in the Community at Ironbridge in 2009. For the first time BPMA had its own exhibition space and its own visitors, over 100,000 in the first year. Other exhibitions such as ‘Moving the Mail’ at the Coventry Transport Museum also began to draw the crowds.

There were also attempts at pursuing our core mission – giving Britain’s postal heritage a new home – but these seemed to come unstuck for a whole series of reasons, much to BPMA’s great regret. In the end, 2011 proved to be the year when things started to go right for us on this score. The Postal Services Act affirmed the importance of securing Britain’s postal heritage and that same year Royal Mail offered us a building in London, plus core funding, to make the museum happen.

Stocktake back in 2007.

Stocktake back in 2007.

Planning permission was granted in 2012, along with a Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) Round One pass and grant for our project. There have been bumps along the way, a lot of media interest of late, and a phenomenal effort from BPMA colleagues past and present for which I am very grateful. At the time of writing, ten years after our foundation, we await only the HLF’s grant verdict before we can literally begin to build our future.

Our vision for the next ten years is to secure and open this first class new home, the Postal Museum & Mail Rail, in 2016; cement our place as a sustainable, national, cultural attraction; grow the BPMA’s services nationally and internationally; and, from the base we will have, to grow digitally, grow our funding and build for the future. Based on our record to date I am sure that we will successfully deliver on this.

Here’s to the next ten years of BPMA! 

-Adrian Steel, Director

Spring Stampex 2014

On Wednesday, 19 February, the busy British National Stamp Exhibition, or Stampex, will open its doors once more. Stampex is free of charge and open to the philatelic community and anyone interested in stamps and postal history.

The show is located at the Business Design Centre, 52 Upper Street, Islington, London N1 0QH. Stampex will be open as follows:

  • Wed 19 February: 11.30am – 7pm
  • Thu 20 February: 10am – 6pm
  •  Fri 21 February: 10am – 6pm
  • Sat 22 February: 10am – 5pm

The BPMA will be Stampex Spring 2014 – Tech Plan (5) situated at Stand no. 80, with the BPMA Friends at the adjacent Stand no. 79 (floor plan attached), sharing the stand with the Stuart Rossiter Trust. We are situated on the left hand side of the mezzanine floor, close to Royal Mail stand.

Lieutenant-General Sir Pratap Singh and the Rajah of Ratlam, at Sir Douglas Haig’s Chateau in Montreuil, 17th June 1916 © IWM (Q 692))

Lieutenant-General Sir Pratap Singh and the Rajah of Ratlam, at Sir Douglas Haig’s Chateau in Montreuil, 17th June 1916 © IWM (Q 692))

Come along to our stand and collect your FREE goodie bag (limited numbers available). We will be sharing news about the BPMA’s current events and activities, and showing footage and still images on selected days of Mail Rail. Our staff will be available throughout the four days of Stampex to answer questions and provide information on our forthcoming plans to open The Postal Museum.

Stampex 2013

Stampex 2013

There will be a great selection of BPMA shop products to purchase, including BPMA-specific first day covers, selected publications with 50% off and many other items.

There will also be images and panels demonstrating the breadth of the BPMA collection, available for visitors to view. We will also have on display a small number of panels from our First World War exhibition: Last Post, to mark the centenary of the First World War in 2014.

Secret coding signifying sailing times. The location of each area of conflict was coded by letter to maintain secrecy: A for ‘in France’, and B for ‘East Africa’, for example.

Secret coding signifying sailing times. The location of each area of conflict was coded by letter to maintain secrecy: A for ‘in France’, and B for ‘East Africa’, for example.

Last Post is shortly going on tour to a wide variety of museums, galleries and libraries across the UK. The flagship Last Post exhibition will be on display at Coalbrookdale Museum of Iron from Friday 11 April.

Also available at the BPMA stand will be tickets to purchase for the BPMA evening talk on Thursday 20 February at the Phoenix Centre (next door to the BPMA and a 20 minute walk from the Business Design Centre) on the histories of The Times’ War Correspondents.

Postage Due 1914 at the BPMA

Coinciding with the first day of Stampex, on Wednesday 19 February, the BPMA are introducing a new commemorative stamp issue to its Post & Go machine at Freeling House, to mark the centenary of the introduction of Postage Due labels. These will be available until 5 April. Both the existing Machin and the Union Flag designs will bear the underprint “The B.P.M.A./ Postage Due 1914”.

A limited number of BPMA specific first day covers will be available for purchase both at Freeling House from Wednesday 19 February and at the BPMA Stand at Stampex from 1pm on Wednesday 19 February.

The Centenary will also be marked through a small two-panel display in the BPMA’s Search Room Foyer at Freeling House, until 5 April.

-Dominique Gardner, Exhibitions Officer

Crowdsourcing IWM paintings and BPMA images

The BPMA has been active on Historypin since last year and yesterday we hosted a Putting Art on the Map event with Historypin in the Search Room. This event focused on crowdsourcing information about the selected images and paintings. The selected images depicted post and telecommunications during the First World War.

A3 copies of the paintings and images that were up for discussion.

A3 copies of the paintings and images that were up for discussion.

After Dr Alice Strickland introduced the IWM paintings and the artists behind them, Gavin McGuffie (Archive Catalogue and Project Manager at the BPMA) introduced the primary resources on offer from the archive for participants to use. This was the first event of its kind to have primary sources on offer for participants.

Even us 'non-experts' jumped in. Alex, Project Officer at Historypin, looks through a resource from our archive. Photo credit: Historypin

Even us ‘non-experts’ jumped in. Alex, Project Officer at Historypin, looks through a resource from our archive. Photo credit: Historypin

Participants were then let loose on the A3 copies of the paintings and images, and zoom-able digital images of the IWM paintings to see what they could come up with. Over the next two hours, participants worked feverishly to find out detailed facts about these pieces. Using Ancestry.co.uk one participant was even able to identify the woman seated on the far right of the below painting!

Queen Mary’s Army Auxiliary Corps Signallers, Base Hill, Rouen : Telephones. Forewoman Milnes and Captain Pope. Copyright Imperial War Museum.

Despite this brilliant session, there is still plenty to discover about these artworks and images, both on the Putting Art on the Map project and our Historypin channel. You don’t need to be an expert to do so; as we proved in this event, sometimes all you need is a good eye for detail, adequate search skills and, of course, determination.

Wrap-up discussion of all the images and paintings.

Wrap-up discussion of all the images and paintings. Photo credit: Historypin

Historypin will  be adding all the information, data, comments and questions collected to the artworks on Putting Art on the Map and our Historypin channel. You can then continue the conversation and help discover the story behind the places and people in these pieces.

Do you have an interest in aviation and want to participate in an event like this? Then join Historypin at the next event at Imperial War Museum Duxford on the 22 February.

-Rachel Kasbohm, Digital Media Manager

BPMA at the V&A – First World War: Stories of the Empire event

This Friday (24 January), from 6-9pm, the BPMA are taking part in the free drop-in event: First World War: Stories of the Empire. The event has been organised by the Heritage Lottery Fund in collaboration with the V&A and is being held at the V&A’s Sackler Gallery.

A large number of museums and organisations are taking part with a variety of engaging  stands and displays. The purpose of the evening is to encourage greater understanding of the First World War and the role of Black and Asian soldiers from the Empire.

Lieutenant-General Sir Pratap Singh and the Rajah of Ratlam, at Sir Douglas Haig’s Chateau in Montreuil, 17th June 1916 © IWM (Q 692)

Lieutenant-General Sir Pratap Singh and the Rajah of Ratlam, at Sir Douglas Haig’s Chateau in Montreuil, 17th June 1916 © IWM (Q 692)

Volumes of mail in the First World War were huge. Exceptional organisation and logistical control was required to ensure mail reached the front lines as quickly as possible. From October to December 1914 alone, over 1.2 million parcels were sent to the troops. All troops were able to send letters home free of charge.

Australian mail storage in Kew (POST 56/6)

Australian mail storage in Kew (POST 56/6)

The BPMA stand will consist of the touring version of Last Post: Remembering the First World War, plus two new additional panels focusing on the wider delivery of mail across the world during the First World War. Panel research for the new panels was undertaken by AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award PhD student Victoria Davis. Additional research has been completed by Dr Pete Sutton. We will have plenty of other material available on the night and also have a number of First World War handling items available for visitors.

The shipping of mails (POST 56/6)

The shipping of mails (POST 56/6)

The evening is a drop-in event and begins with a drinks reception at 6pm, open to all. Activities and stands will be available throughout the evening. A panel discussion begins in the auditorium at 7.45pm.

The BPMA stand will be situated downstairs in the V&A Sackler Centre, directly behind the Sackler Centre Reception desk.  We look forward to seeing you on the night!

Check out our Flickr set on the First World War. We will be updating it regularly with images from our archive relating to postal history and the war.

-Dominique Gardner, Exhibitions Officer

The Twelve Days of Christmas on the Mail Rail

Follow @postalheritage #MailRail over Christmas to see some festive paintings from the Mail Rail tunnels.

BackgroundMail Rail staff worked 6-days a week and 22-hours a day in the lead up to Christmas. During the 80s, families of staff were invited to a Christmas party down in the tunnels – a reward for their hardwork. The tunnels and platforms were transformed with snow machines and lights.

8. Maids A-Milking_web_copy1

‘Eight Maids a Milking’

Children could then ride to another platform where Father Christmas would be waiting with gifts at the end. Along the tunnel walls, the Twelve Days of Christmas were painted for passengers to view as they rode past.

12. Drummers Drumming_web_copy1

‘Twelve Drummers Drumming’

Follow #MailRail: To celebrate the Twelve Days of Christmas, we will be tweeting a painting a day beginning with ‘A Partridge in a Pear Tree’ on Christmas Day. Follow @postalheritage #MailRail over the holiday season to see more of these spectacular images.

Victorian Christmas workshops at Westminster Abbey

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For the past two weeks I’ve been busy delivering Victorian Christmas workshops for schools in the awe-inspiring Westminster Abbey.

The Christmas workshops follow on from last year’s successful partnership with the Westminster Abbey Education team. This year we were also joined by the Dickens Museum. The three organisations worked together to develop festive workshops for primary schools across London.

Each class took part in two activities. They toured Westminster Abbey and participated in telling the Christian Nativity story by taking on the role of characters including shepherds, the three Wise people and Mary and Joseph.

The second activity was co-led by the BPMA and Dickens Museum. They found out about two famous Victorians who are both buried in Westminster Abbey – Rowland Hill, inventor of the Penny Black stamp and Charles Dickens, author of among other books, A Christmas Carol.

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Another connection is that the world’s first commercially produced Christmas card was made in 1843, the same year as A Christmas Carol was published.

To finish their visit students made a Christmas card, based on a Victorian toy shop.

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Lots of festive fun was had by all!